Party rules favor chairman

Alberini can’t challenge Polivka for leadership

After saying he supported Trumbull County Democratic Chairman Dan Polivka’s re-election, Mark Alberini, Trumbull County Board of Elections chairman, is seeking to challenge the incumbent even though the local party’s bylaws don’t permit it.

Alberini said he “was still evaluating” a chairman’s run when he told a reporter Friday he wasn’t challenging Polivka and supported his re-election.

After further consideration, Alberini said he would run against Polivka.

“The Democratic Party in Trumbull County deserves a choice,” Alberini said. “If they feel the party is moving forward and is progressing, they should keep the current leadership. But, if they feel we’re stagnant and can do better in so many areas, I want to give them that choice.”

Alberini notified Polivka on Monday he would challenge him.

Polivka said he told Alberini that under the county party’s constitution he isn’t an eligible candidate. That’s because only members of the party’s central committee can run for officer positions.

When Alberini moved from Howland to Vienna about four years ago, he said he decided not to challenge Phillip Pegg, the incumbent precinct committeeman, because he does a good job. Before that, Alberini said he was a precinct committeeman for about 30 years.

About half of the 88 county Democratic parties in Ohio have a similar provision on who can run for party leadership and it is permissible, Bill DeMora, Ohio Democratic Party secretary, said.

DeMora reviewed the county party’s bylaws Monday at Polivka’s request and said they state principal officers — chair, first vice chair and secretary — have to be central committee members. So Alberini isn’t eligible to run for chairman, he said.

DeMora wrote in a Monday email to Polivka and First Vice Chairwoman Kathy DiCristofaro, “the ‘principal officers’ of the party MUST be members of the central committee, since these officers become the same in the executive committee per Section 3.3.”

In response, Alberini said, “It’s a gut punch. I’m disappointed. I’m discouraged. I feel like I’m letting a lot of people down, and I feel like I’m letting the party down. This was about the party. Now it appears I can’t (run for chairman). We will continue looking into it and see if it’s the be-all and end-all or if there are other options we have not considered.”

The party is planning to meet June 7 to vote for party chair, first vice chair and secretary.

Polivka said he was surprised Alberini didn’t know the party’s rules.

He also said he was confused by Alberini being quoted a couple of days ago saying he’s “always been a supporter of Dan as chairperson” and that he hadn’t heard of anyone challenging him and then decided to run for the job.

“One day he praised me and the next, I don’t know,” Polivka said. “I don’t know what makes people tick. It seemed weird to me. I don’t get it.”

Polivka added he ran in his precinct and if Alberini was interested in being chairman, he would have done the same “instead of trying to skirt the bylaws.”

Polivka received blame as chairman after the November 2020 election that saw him lose his county commissioner’s position as well as other defeats of incumbent Democrats and a 10.56 percent victory for Republican Donald Trump, the second time he won the once-solid Democratic county.

Polivka also was criticized for serving as party chairman and as a county commissioner.

Polivka has served as party chairman since 2010. He was county commissioner from January 2005 to December 2020.

Alberini said Trumbull and Mahoning counties “used to be relied on to carry Democrats in Ohio. It’s not the case anymore and it’s our fault. We have better qualified candidates. There’s no excuse why we’re not winning in Trumbull anymore. It’s become a purple county.”

Alberini added, “we’re at a tipping point in Trumbull County. We have to get better and it starts with leadership. We have failed to mobilize and win.”


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