Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras is being verbally whacked like a pinata by black politicos in the city of Youngstown.
They blame him for the party’s endorsement of white candidates over black candidates seeking three major offices in Youngstown government.
And they are reveling in the outcome of Tuesday’s primary election in Youngstown.
The defeats of Mayor John A. McNally, seeking a second four-year term; Anthony Sertick, making a bid for municipal judge; and Mike Ray, candidate for council president, are being portrayed as a repudiation of Betras’ leadership of the party.
But before the critics go overboard in their condemnation, they would do well to consider these facts:
The chairman did not have the authority under the party’s constitution to block endorsement votes by members of the central and executive committee from Youngstown.
The mayor’s defeat last week can be traced back to February 2016 when Betras demanded McNally’s resignation after he pleaded guilty to four criminal charges related to the Oak-hill Renaissance Place criminal conspiracy.
McNally’s insistence during The Vindicator’s mayoral debate that Youngstown residents had moved on from the Oakhill Renaissance scandal was a political miscue.
So while the black community celebrates former Councilman Jamael Tito Brown’s 461-vote win over McNally (4,323 to 3,862), it’s worth remembering that Betras was virtually alone when he demanded the mayor’s resignation.
Most of the political types in the city hid in the weeds because they were afraid of offending the mastermind of the Oakhill Renaissance criminal enterprise, Anthony M. Cafaro Sr., a shopping center developer.
Cafaro, the now retired president of the Cafaro Co., corralled McNally when he was a Mahoning County commissioner, and other county officials to help him block the county’s purchase of Oakhill Renaissance Place, the former Southside Medical Center.
However, unlike McNally, former county Auditor Michael Sciortino and Youngstown Atty. Martin Yavorcik, who were convicted for their participation in the criminal enterprise, the mastermind got a pass from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, who oversaw the case.
Nonetheless, not many politicians were willing to cross Cafaro Sr. by going after his puppet, McNally.
But here’s what the Democratic Party chairman said in February 2016:
“As I have said from the beginning, I believed Mayor McNally had the right to remain in office pending the disposition of the charges filed against him. In light of the fact that he today pleaded guilty to four misdemeanors related directly to his official duties as an elected official, I believe he should resign. At the very least, I believe he should not seek re-election when his term expires. If he does not, the voters will have their say when it comes time for re-election.”
But it wasn’t just the voters who went to the polls last Tuesday who had their say.
A majority of Democratic voters in Youngstown who steered clear of the mayor’s race delivered an even more poignant message: Neither McNally nor Brown met their standards for leading the city of Youngstown.
Betras had nothing to do with either of the candidates being in the race.