For Mahoning County political leaders, what’s old is new again

To paraphrase The Who, in Mahoning County, it’s meet the new party bosses, same as the old party bosses.

For the occasional complaints I hear from precinct committee members in both the county Democratic and Republican parties, the chairmen of the respective groups had no trouble getting re-elected by precinct committee members.

In fact, Democratic Chairman David Betras, chairman since 2009, and his entire slate of candidates ended up running unopposed.

There wasn’t even one challenger to any of the positions: first vice chairwoman/secretary, executive vice president, treasurer, vice chairman of minority affairs and vice president of labor affairs.

“It hasn’t always been easy,” Betras said. “Sometimes it wasn’t pretty. Many times, I made mistakes, but in the end, we’ve always come together and done what’s right for our party and our community. We’ll continue to do exactly that for the next four years.”

Betras won his precinct committee seat in Boardman 8 by only one vote. He said he concentrated on getting his candidates for other committee seats elected and likely neglected his own campaign.

It doesn’t matter as the county Democratic Party chairman doesn’t need to be a precinct committee member. [For the local Republican Party, the rule is different.] But it certainly would have been embarrassing for Betras to lose the seat.

Betras said he still won, and it doesn’t matter if it’s by a single vote or a hundred.

Despite the success of the local Democratic Party, Betras is obviously still stinging from the 2016 presidential election.

Yes, Democrat Hillary Clinton won Mahoning County. But she beat President Donald Trump, a Republican, in the Democratic stronghold 49.9 percent to 46.6 percent.

It was the best showing for a Republican in Mahoning County since Richard Nixon’s victory in 1972.

Betras is still smarting from the close race, and while he’s focused on the 2018 election, he is also looking ahead to the 2020 presidential campaign.

“As I begin my third term as your chair, the first pathological liar ever elected to the presidency occupies the Oval Office,” Betras said May 31 during his acceptance speech.

“The contrast between [Trump and Barack Obama] and the two eras could not be starker. Instead of hope, Trump traffics in fear. Instead of bringing us together, his divisive, racist rhetoric is tearing us apart.”

He added that Trump’s “relentless attacks on women, workers, consumers, seniors, veterans, the LGBT community, and the environment threaten to erase decades of progress made under Democratic administrations that truly did make America great for all of us, not just the privileged few.”

Over at the local Republican headquarters, Chairman Mark Munroe faced a challenger for the first time in his bid for a third term as head of the party.

While his opponent, Jim Murphy, didn’t have a chance of beating Munroe, there was some discontent with party leadership.

An anonymous letter was sent to each precinct committee member claiming Munroe was fiscally irresponsible with party money. Munroe countered that the accusations were lies.

But again, it’s the votes that count.

Even though Munroe told precinct committee members that he was not likely going to serve a full four-year term, he easily beat Murphy 93-10.

Also, Thomas McCabe, county elections board deputy director and the person tapped by Munroe to succeed him as chairman, was elected first vice chairman over Corrine Sanderson 86-17.

Like Betras, Munroe also talked about Trump, but said that the president’s strong showing in Mahoning County was a sign that things are turning for the better for Republicans here.

Munroe also brushed aside any problems with the party and said he wasn’t bothered he had a challenger.

“I’m terribly excited there are people willing to step up and get involved in party leadership,” he said.

When Munroe will step down as chairman is something he doesn’t know. But he said it could be as soon as next year.

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