Published January 11, 2009
Former Ohio Democratic Party chairman and state Senate president Harry Meshel of Youngstown says he has been approached by Mahoning County Democrats to seek the chairmanship of the party. Meshel is giving serious thought to the idea. If he does make a bid — it would at the party's reorganization after the 2010 primary unless Chairwoman Lisa Antonini resigns this year — Meshel would go up against Atty. David Betras.
Betras is running for chairman — even though he has not formally announced his candidacy. He has been sounding out Democratic insiders in the region and in Columbus. His goal is to bring the various factions together so the county party will be well positioned to participate in the 2010 gubernatorial election when Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland seeks re-election.
Last year's presidential election showed just how inconsequential the Mahoning and Trumbull County Democratic parties have become.
Meshel is also of the opinion that the party needs to be revitalized — and he has a powerful weapon to accomplish that: Youngstown businessman Bruce Zoldan.
Zoldan, a close ally of Gov. Strickland's and a major contributor to Democratic candidates, uses Meshel as a consultant on government issues. If the former Senate president does make a bid for party chair, he can expect substantative financial support from the owner of BJ Alan Fireworks.
But Betras is not without financial means. He is a successful criminal lawyer who is willing to put up his own money for his campaign to prove his independence.
If the Mahoning County Democratic Party wants to be relevant again, it needs new leadership. Either Betras or Meshel would be a major improvement over the inept chairwoman, Antonini.