As Republican Gov. John Kasich prepares to appoint a replacement for Youngstown Municipal Court Judge Robert A. Douglas Jr., a Democrat who is retiring Aug. 1, two Mahoning County legislators are urging him not to fill the position. State Reps. Robert F. Hagan, D- Youngstown, and Ronald V. Gerberry, D-Austintown, sent a letter to the governor saying, in effect, that the reorganization of the court system below the common pleas level is of greater importance and financial significance than a Youngstown judgeship.
What is noteworthy about the letter — it comes on the heels of one sent by county Democratic Party Chairman David Betras to the governor advising him to leave the position vacant — is that state Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, the minority leader, did not sign it.
Hagan says he talked to Schiavoni who agreed with what was being sought, but did not want to put his name to the letter. Why?
Call it playing safe politically.
Schiavoni has made no secret of his plan to run for Congress in 2014 if Congressman Tim Ryan runs for governor. Ryan has said he will make a bid for statewide office if former Gov. Ted Strickland does not run. Strickland lost his re-election bid in 2010 by a sliver to Kasich. Since then, the Democrat has been vocal in his criticism of his successor; he also is co-chairman of President Obama’s national campaign.
If Strickland runs for governor in 2014, Ryan will stay where he is and will be a shoo-in for the Democratic nomination — barring any unforeseen scandals. He is building seniority in Congress. That means Schiavoni, Hagan, county Commissioner Anthony Traficanti and any other politician eyeing the congressional seat will have to reassess.
By not signing the letter to the governor regarding the judicial appointment, Schiavoni has put himself at odds with his legislative colleagues and party Chairman Betras, who has made the elimination of the courts below the common pleas level and the creation of a metropolitan system a priority.