Dem leader Betras looks to end endorsements after May disaster


On the side

The deadline to file in the Sept. 26 nonpartisan primary runoff in Campbell and Sebring isn’t until June 28.

But the Mahoning County Board of Elections already has certified two candidates running for Campbell Municipal Court judge to the ballot.

They are incumbent Judge Patrick P. Cunning and Mark J. Kolmacic, the city’s former two-term law director who previously served as acting judge.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez will be in Boardman about 1 p.m. today at Wedgewood Pizza, 6200 South Ave.

Tickets are $25 each. Perez is expected to discuss the party’s plans for the 2018 mid-term congressional elections.

Based on the results of last month’s primary in Youngs-town, endorsements by the Mahoning County Democratic Party are probably going away.

Primary endorsements have led to bitter fights among those who back the candidates getting the party’s backing and those who don’t.

It completely blew up in the faces of the party, particularly its leadership, when the endorsed candidates for Youngstown mayor, council president and municipal court judge – as well as most of the party-backed candidates in Struthers – lost in the primary.

Party Chairman David Betras said he’ll call the central committee together after the November general election to ask its members to get rid of endorsements.

“I think the time for endorsements by the party has come and gone,” he said. “This election shows people don’t like it. I think we’ll get rid of them. At least my recommendation will be to get rid of them. It’s up to the central committee to decide.”

Now that the very divided primary is finished, the two sides are trying to put aside their differences and work to elect Democrats.

However, there are prominent members of the party’s executive committee who aren’t backing Jamael Tito Brown for Youngstown mayor.

Brown defeated incumbent Youngstown Mayor John A. McNally, the endorsed candidate, in the Democratic primary.

Of the seven members of city council, three are vocal in their support of Sean McKinney, an independent mayoral candidate and a former Youngstown buildings and grounds commissioner.

Julius Oliver, D-1st, Lauren McNally, D-5th, and Basia Adamczak, D-7th, are backing McKinney and marched with him in the Memorial Day parade in Boardman.

Betras appointed all seven members of city council to the executive committee.

Betras is expected next week to remove Oliver, McNally and Adamczak from the committee not so much for supporting McKinney, but for being so public about it.

Youngstown Councilwoman Anita Davis, D-6th, is backing Janet Tarpley, also an independent candidate for mayor and a former 6th Ward councilwoman. Her support hasn’t been as open as that of the three other council members.

Betras said: “If you’re in leadership and actively support another candidate, you can’t hold your leadership position in the party.”

The three council members disagree, with Oliver saying Betras “is trying to quiet us.”

McKinney also has tried to gain political traction by issuing an open letter earlier this week about the situation.

He wrote: “Over the last few days, local news outlets have reported that David Betras, Mahoning County Democratic Party chairman, has threatened to remove individuals from the party’s executive committee in retaliation for their support of my candidacy for mayor of Youngstown. The three, all members of Youngstown City Council, have exercised their freedom of choice by not supporting the winner of the Democratic primary.”

He added: “First and foremost, I would like to commend these individuals for their courage in expressing their right to support a nonpartisan candidate like myself rather than follow lock-step with the dictates of the party leadership. Also, I would like to thank them for believing in me and that my campaign offers a real choice for voters, one both of vision and a real plan for families, business development, and the education of our students.”

The reality for those on the county Democratic Party’s executive committee is they’re not part of a democracy. You either get in line and back the party’s candidates after the primary or, at the very least, don’t be so vocal about not doing so. If you don’t, the party chairman has the power to remove you.

As Betras said: “I’m not trying to quiet anyone, but when you accept a leadership position in the party, there are certain expectations. One is to support the party’s nominees or at least not openly support another candidate. I’m going to remove those who cannot support the legitimate winner of a primary campaign. It isn’t a personal thing.”

If you don’t support the endorsed candidate, why would you want to be in a leadership position in an organization that is trying to elect that person?

Also, history has shown that nearly every elected official who’s been kicked off the executive committee for backing someone besides the party’s primary winner has returned to the committee after the general election.

Don't Miss a Story

Sign up for our newsletter to receive daily news directly in your inbox.