Senate seat will be up for grabs in 2018 with Schiavoni leaving

On the side

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With Ohio Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni, a Democrat, unable to run next year – he’s making a bid for governor – his Senate seat could be one targeted by Republicans.

Much of it depends on who runs to succeed Schiavoni of Boardman in the 33rd Ohio Senate District.

The two leading Democrats eyeing the seat are state Rep. John Boccieri of Poland, D-59th, who formerly held the position, and Boardman Trustee Larry Moliterno.

Boccieri, who’s also a former congressman, seems lukewarm to running for the seat, pointing out that there are only nine Democrats currently in the Ohio Senate compared to 24 Republicans.

“I’m less inclined to look at it,” Boccieri said. “I don’t know how better off we’ll be. I’ll have to see how it goes. I’ll talk to my wife and make a decision sometime this year.”

He later said: “It’s something I’ve thought about. I’ll look at it.”

In comparison, Moliterno is enthusiastic about the position.

“I’m very much considering the next step and to serve the community in a broader way and the Senate is the next step,” he said. “I hope to make an announcement in the very near future about my decision.”

Moliterno has served as a trustee of Mahoning County’s largest township for a decade and is also chief executive officer of Meridian Health Care.

“I’ve been involved a lot with countywide issues and down in Columbus a lot on overdoses and opioid use and I’ve testified [regarding] that and other issues,” he said. “The opportunity to be involved on the policy side would benefit the Valley. I’ve let a lot of people know I’m interested in” running for the Senate.

The 33rd District includes all of Mahoning and Columbiana counties.

While the Democratic-dominated Mahoning is the population center of the district, it’s not a given that Republicans can’t compete in it.

Actually far from it.

The district includes the 5th, 58th and 59th Ohio House Districts.

The 5th District takes in all of Columbiana County, which is a solid Republican area.

The 58th includes Youngs-town and the surrounding areas, which is a solid Democratic area.

The 59th includes Boardman, Canfield, Poland and the rural parts Mahoning County. While it leans Democratic, it could easily turn red with the right candidate. It would be a lot easier for Republicans to pick up this House seat if Boccieri, a popular elected official in the county, wasn’t the incumbent.

Republicans have two candidates interested in running for the Senate seat, said Mahoning County Republican Party Chairman Mark Munroe. He wouldn’t reveal the names, but said one is a current officeholder.

He also said that state Rep. Tim Ginter of Salem, R-5th, isn’t interested in the Senate position.

“There’s no reason we can’t be competitive,” Munroe said. “We have two candidates with excellent names and strong backgrounds. The Senate [Republican] caucus is very interested in that seat. It’s highly likely it would be a targeted race. It would be nice to have some Republican representation from the Valley in Columbus.”

Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras said he is aware that Republicans could target the Senate district.

Betras said his preference is for Boccieri to run for the position and have Moliterno run in the 59th House.

But if Boccieri doesn’t seek the Senate seat, Moliterno is an excellent candidate, Betras said, and that “a number of people have expressed interest in it.”

He also sarcastically said, “That’s what Republicans need is another Republican in the Senate.”

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