When Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras called to say that Atty. Mark Hanni is running against 7th District Court of Appeals Judge Mary DeGenaro in next year’s election, there was none of the bluster that has come to define him. In fact, the chairman was downright ho-hum about it. Hanni, son of the late Don L. Hanni Jr., one of the foremost criminal lawyers in the Mahoning Valley, would get the party’s endorsement, and would get the chairman’s support, Betras said.
But it was what he did not say in the telephone call that speaks volumes. He did not say that Hanni is one of the top legal minds in the region and that his bid for the appeals court is not only necessary, but timely. He did not say that if the Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-Democrat won the appeals court seat, the next goal would be the Ohio Supreme Court. He did not say that Hanni is such a brilliant lawyer that his legal briefs are worthy of publication in the top law journals. And, he did not say that since becoming chairman he has been searching high and low for a lawyer of Hanni’s caliber to seek a judgeship.
As for Judge DeGenaro, the party chairman avoided any of the partisan insults he has been tossing around lately, especially toward Republican Gov. John Kasich. Why? Because Betras and his law firm have cases that, at times, end up in the 7th District Court of Appeals, and because there is nothing to suggest that he is unhappy with the job Judge DeGenaro is doing. It will be interesting to see whether he takes the political gloves off when the race heats up.
So, why is Hanni, who certainly hasn’t made a name for himself as a lawyer the way his father did early on in his career, running for judge? Think 3-High. (For an explanation, read this writer’s column published Sunday.) Hanni had worked for the Mahoning County Board of Elections, a public job, before he lost his job.