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The race is on for new chief of Mahoning Democrats

While the Mahoning County Democratic Party’s precinct committee members won’t vote until next June for a new chairman, Christopher Anderson, the head of the Ohio Young Democrats, says he’s seeking the seat.

Also, Youngstown City Councilman Mike Ray, D-4th Ward, and a member of the Ohio Democratic State Central Committee since January 2019, said he is seriously interested in the position.

“I wanted to get out there and start doing a lot of the important work I feel is needed to help move our party forward,” said Anderson of his early announcement. “I didn’t want to wait until June to do that work. My top priority is to bring new people into the fold and get inactive people back.”

Anderson, of Boardman, a former county party political director, said he also wants to “transform how we run campaigns and bring us into a more modern era.”

Ray, a councilman since December 2010, said: “I am interested, and people in the party have expressed interest in me pursuing it. There is a lot to consider professionally and politically. It’s a large commitment.”

Ray said: “We face challenges like we never had in recent times. Our leadership has worked hard. We need, as a party, to adapt. There is work to do to get back on track with our base.”

Anderson praised the party’s leadership, saying it has done a strong job, but “it’s time for a fresh voice with new ideas” to lead.

“I thought it was important for me to announce early after watching the Ohio Republicans gerrymander our state again,” he said.

Anderson was a favorite to be elected chairman after David Betras resigned in May 2019. But Anderson, who was the party’s political director at the time, declined to run as he had a newborn.

Joyce Kale-Pesta, director of the board of elections and then-party’s first vice chairwoman/secretary, ended up running unopposed to succeed Betras.

Kale-Pesta, who is retiring in late November from the elections board, said she doesn’t plan to seek another term when the current one expires in June 2022.

Kale-Pesta said she isn’t endorsing a candidate, but added about Anderson: “I don’t like people who step over other people. I believe in manners and respect, and he doesn’t have many.”

She added: “I don’t know if he’s the best choice for chair. He’s young. He’s got ambition, but maybe too much. I’ve been a loyal party member for years. Mike Ray has expressed interest, and he’s been a loyal Democrat for many, many years, but it’s early.”

Anderson said he “respects Joyce and her lifetime of service to the party. I don’t think I’m stepping over anyone. I’m uniquely suited for the position given my experience getting people elected, which is the main role of the chairman, and my relationships across the state and in the Mahoning Valley.”

Anderson is the president of the Ohio Young Democrats, the Ohio Democratic Party’s caucus for those under the age of 40. Previously, he was the Young Democrats’ vice president of campaigns, served as the county Democratic Party’s political director and has worked on numerous Democratic campaigns, including as field director for U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan’s 2020 re-election.

In November 2017, the Ohio Democratic Party selected him as the state’s young Democrat of the year, an award named after former Gov. John Gilligan.

dskolnick@vindy.com

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