Betras won’t survive obscurity


“You know I was going to resign but now since you wrote that article I’m serving my term just to aggravate you. Bc aggravating you is joyous.”

That text from Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras was in response to a column on Jan. 13 in this space headlined “Bluster from Betras triggers blowback”.

Here’s what was written, in part:

“Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras crawled out of the weeds where he had been hiding since the November general election, and got his head caved in – again.

“This time, the verbal assault came from Kristin Alvanitakis, spokeswoman of the Ohio Democratic Party, who was responding to a self-serving letter from Betras in which he blames state Chairman David Pepper and other leaders for the party’s declining political fortunes.

“Last time, the blast came from this writer who suggested that Betras and Trumbull County Democratic Party Chairman Daniel Polivka should resign following the disastrous Nov-ember general election.”

Betras’ reaction was predictable. He doesn’t take criticism well.

Indeed, getting under his thin skin made his tenure as Democratic Party chairman all the more interesting for this writer.

But four months after insisting he wasn’t going anywhere, Betras resigned. His departure Wednesday was anticlimactic – considering the upheaval that defined his 10-year tenure as chairman.

The reasons he gave for his departure have been well publicized in this newspaper and other media. Not surprisingly, they’re self-serving.

“My decision is driven in large part by my desire to devote more time to my family and my business,” he wrote in his letter of resignation to Joyce-Kale Pesta, the party’s first vice chairman/secretary. “For the past ten years, my wife Pam and our children Rose, Joseph, and Alexander, tolerated the constant travel, long hours, late night phone calls, tension, and aggravation that comes with being chair.”

Wow, he certainly knows how to tug at the heart strings – if you have a heart, that is.

Betras has long accused this writer of being heartless, which he never understood was a badge of honor for a columnist with a jaundiced view of politics.

Not having Betras to kick around will be an adjustment. It was fun knowing that any negative comments about him would result in a barrage of text messages

So, what’s the real reason for Betras’ resignation as chairman? (Kale-Pesta, the linchpin of the party for many decades, is expected to succeed him.)

The timing certainly raises eyebrows. The country is in the midst of what promises to be an exciting battle for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020. Indeed, there currently are 23 candidates eyeing the nomination, including Mahoning Valley Congressman Tim Ryan of Howland.

Ryan has qualified to participate in the nationally televised debates scheduled for June and July.

It makes no sense for the chairman of the predominant party in Mahoning County to resign just as the presidential election is getting to be fun.

Unless, of course, Betras was afraid that Republican President Donald Trump would replicate his 2016 performance in the Valley next year.

In his first bid for public office, Trump, the billionaire real estate developer from New York City, carried heavily Democratic Trumbull County and came close to winning in predominantly Democratic Mahoning County.

Trump’s impressive performance in what has been a Democratic stronghold in presidential elections enabled him to defeat the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, in Ohio.

White, male blue-collar workers from this region fled the Democratic Party in droves, swayed by Trump’s promise to make America great again and to rebuild the auto and steel industries.

Trump’s supporters in this region remain loyal despite the fact that General Motors has idled its 53-year-old car assembly plant in Lordstown.

Thousands of good paying jobs have been lost, but the president’s true believers aren’t blaming him.

Betras and Trumbull County Democratic Chairman Polivka took a lot of heat after the 2016 election for failing to deliver a substantial vote for Clinton.

They also were criticized in last year’s race for governor for not giving Democrat Richard Cordray the boost he needed to secure a win over Republican Mike DeWine.

Cordray, who served as the first director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under President Barack Obama, lost to DeWine, the state’s attorney general, by 200,000 votes.

Trump has changed the political landscape of the Mahoning Valley, which would certainly explain why Betras decided to bail out.

Or, he could be getting ready to take on one of the most challenging cases in his long career as a criminal defense lawyer: Defending nationally renowned lawyer and Trump disparager Michael Avenatti, who is facing a slew of criminal charges.

It will be recalled that Betras had touted Avenatti for the Democratic nomination for president.

Avenatti rose to fame as the lawyer for porn star Stormy Daniels, who filed lawsuits stemming from an alleged affair in 2006 with Trump, the married billionaire.

The president has denied the porn star’s allegations.

Betras attracted national media attention because of his embrace of Avenatti.

The idea of being involved in a high-profile case has to appeal to a man who is drawn to a television camera like a moth to a flame.

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