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Is it back to the future for Mahoning Democrats?

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

Published February 28, 2010

Untitled document

What does Mark Hanni want? It’s a question that has been asked many times over the years as the son of the late Don L. Hanni Jr., long-time mercurial chairman of the Mahoning County Democratic Party, has tried to fill his father’s political shoes.
Mark Hanni certainly has not succeeded, but that hasn’t stopped him.
Consider his latest endeavor: Running a slate of precinct committeemen and women in the May Democratic primary as a challenge to party Chairman David Betras. No, Betras isn’t in any danger of being ousted, not after the job he has done since he was elected party chair last April after Lisa Antonini resigned. Betras, who tried many tough criminal cases with Don Hanni, one of the leading criminal lawyers in Ohio, has re-energized the county Democratic Party, attracted the attention of the Ohio Democratic organization, and has stabilized the local entity’s finances.
There are about 300 Democratic precinct committee positions in Mahoning County, and Betras has about 250 candidates in his column. Mark Hanni has about 150.
So, if the numbers don’t indicate victory, what is he after?
If past is prologue, he’s looking for a job — perhaps on the board of elections. He used to be on the payroll and was deputy director until the Mahoning Democrats for Change took over the party by ousting Don Hanni and his cabal.
But while he may cause Betras to work even harder than he intended to in his bid for a full term as party chairman, Mark Hanni isn’t going to find a willing partner for his deal-making.
Betras has been clear: Gone are the days when public jobs were handed out to the family and friends of party insiders.

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