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Betras to Ohio Dem leaders: Resign

By DAVID SKOLNICK

Staff writer

YOUNGS-TOWN — David Betras hasn’t been Mahoning County Democratic Party chairman for 18 months and has been relatively quiet about Ohio politics during that time, but after the recent election, he went after the state party.

Betras, who serves as vice chairman of the county board of elections, tweeted more than 100 times this weekend criticizing the Ohio Democratic Party.

“I have a suggestion for entire @OHDems. Ready? Seppuku.”

Seppuku is a ritual suicide by Japanese samurais.

“I meant that figuratively,” Betras said. “Do the honorable thing and resign is what I meant.”

He also tweeted at the Ohio Democratic Party: “You should all quit. You are all #epicfailures. Why do you hold onto the reins when clearly you have no idea how to win?”

In an interview, Betras said: “Only in Ohio can you can keep the same team on the field after losing three election cycles in a row. Take a Roto Rooter truck and back it up. I’m asking Democrats, do you like losing because we’re good at that? We’re losing. How did Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania elect statewide candidates, are competitive and we’re not? We have a loser’s mentality. We don’t know how to win.”

In a few of his tweets, Betras criticized Kirstin Alvanitakis, the state party’s communications director, saying she and Chairman David Pepper did a terrible job with messaging in this campaign.

Alvanitakis said she has Betras on mute on Twitter but saw some responses to his tweets from others.

But Pepper said Monday: “Of course we are having a broader conversation with stakeholders, elected officials and activists about the results in Ohio – the wins, the losses and overall trends — and are always open to productive critiques and suggestions on how to do better. Sadly, ex-Chairman Betras’ late-night rants and tweets, which account for most of his involvement in party politics these days, have become less and less helpful or credible.”

Betras actually tweeted throughout the day Saturday and Sunday as well as Monday but at a slower pace than the two previous days.

IMMEDIATE PUSHBACK

Pushback against Betras was immediate and immense from Democrats in the state.

After criticizing Alvanitakis, Brian R. Hester, Butler County Democratic Party’s executive director, told Betras: “Delete your account. Seriously. This is now the second incident where you are abusing an ODP staffer, both were women. This is completely uncalled for and inappropriate.”

Betras responded: “No. You r the problem. Bc she’s woman (she) is forbidden from analysis. I’m not calling her out Bc of her (gender) I could care less. I’m calling her out Bc most Ohioans know nothing about the huge amount of (Republican) scandals. NOTHING. 2 elections. Who is supposed to set the narrative?”

That drew a rebuke from Ernie Davis, U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty’s district director.

Davis tweeted: “You don’t realize it do you? U have a history of being critical / dismissive & nonsupportive of Democratic women. I sat in your office when you told me my candidate you couldn’t / wouldn’t help and then proceeded to say she won bc of her name only. Please just stop w/this.”

Betras said: “They called me misogynistic, homophobic, genderphobic, racist. As chairman, (Pepper) lost in the 2016, 2018 and 2020 cycles and I’m the only one calling them out. Our communications suck. They said I’m picking on a woman, blah, blah, blah and you can’t blame the staff. There was a $1 billion (Republican) corruption scandal in the House, and we lost seats. There won’t be any changes and we’ll lose in 2022 too.”

He also said he has no interest in being state chairman.

Aryeh Alex, executive director of the Ohio House Democratic Caucus, also tweeted at Betras: “Attacking a staffer is absolutely uncalled for. One can criticize the leadership, strategy and execution, but singling out an individual, not in leadership, is unacceptable. Apologize and spend your time helping us win or get out of the way.”

Jen House, the former head of the Ohio Young Democrats, wrote: “Here’s a hot take. Baby boomers aren’t going to fix the Democratic Party. Especially not men who attack staffers. Dave quit his job as chair when his county needed leadership. Now he takes cheap shots on Twitter. i.e. the EXACT opposite of who we need to hear from right now.”

RESIGNED IN 2019

Betras resigned effective May 15, 2019, as county Democratic chairman after a decade on the job. Betras said he quit to devote more time to his law practice, family and because with one of his sons, Joseph, in the Army, it would have been “disrespectful” for him to continue to “publicly chastise” President Donald Trump, the commander in chief, while his son serves.

He was replaced by Joyce Kale-Pesta, who is also director of the county board of elections.

After the 2018 election, in which the Democratic ticket for executive branch seats all lost, Betras called for the removal of Pepper and the entire party leadership.

During that 2018 election, the only Democratic defeats in the state Legislature were an Ohio House seat in Mahoning County and a state Senate seat that represents all of Mahoning and Columbiana counties.

While saying that wasn’t the reason he resigned, Betras said, “I left. I did the honorable thing. But the party is acting like they’re winning when they’re not.”

Democrat Hillary Clinton held on to a win in Mahoning County in 2016 by 3.28 percent, but Trump captured the once-Democratic stronghold by 1.9 percent in the most recent election.

The day after the Nov. 3 election, Betras tweeted there were “systemic and deep seated problems (in) the infrastructure of the ODP” and if he was still county chairman, Trump wouldn’t have won Mahoning.

This drew a response from Kale-Pesta, who rarely tweets: “You hypocrite. You won Mahoning County by 3 percent in ’16. Not a mandate. We lost one seat to an incumbent but took a judgeship from them. May I remind you of the races you lost. If you were chair — why aren’t you chair? Oh — you resigned.”

She followed that tweeting Betras was “too busy patting yourself on the back,” and that he was “not a Democrat. You congratulated the Republicans on flipping Mahoning County. A real Democrat would never do that. The reason you gave up the chairmanship eludes me since you have no trouble talking Trump trash.”

dskolnick@tribtoday.com

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