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ODP official shifts ruling in Trumbull race

Court case makes challenger eligible for party chairman

WARREN — After discovering a 55-year-old court case, an Ohio Democratic Party official has said Mark Alberini is eligible to run for Trumbull County Democratic Party chairman even though he’s not a central committee member.

Bill DeMora, ODP secretary, previously had said Alberini, Trumbull County Board of Elections chairman, couldn’t run to lead the Trumbull Democrats because the local party’s constitution restricts candidates for principal officers — chair, vice chair and secretary — to central committee members.

Alberini is challenging Dan Polivka, chairman since 2010, when the party meets Tuesday to elect officers.

DeMora said at his request, a friend searched for relevant cases on the eligibility of those running for a county Democratic chairman and found a 1967 decision from the Cleveland-based 8th District Court of Appeals. In that case, the judges ruled absent a specific state law “to the contrary, there is no requirement that the chairman of a county central committee of a political party be an elected member thereof.”

DeMora wrote in an email, the case “CLEARLY states that, in fact, the chair of a central committee NEED NOT BE A MEMBER OF THE COMMITTEE. Thus, my previous rulings are REVERSED and ANY ELIGIBLE DEMOCRAT who resides in the county may be chair of the central committee.”

DeMora told a reporter that “a court case means it is law. The law supersedes the rules” of the Trumbull Democratic Party.

In response, Alberini said, “I pointed out the situation is fluid. Things can change. When someone rules one way it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the road. We were continuing to investigate options (for me to run). I remain cautiously optimistic that when June 7 rolls around I will be an eligible candidate.”

Polivka said he will consult with party officials, including Jeffrey Goodman, Trumbull Democratic Party parliamentarian, to review DeMora’s decision.

DeMora said he’ll be at the local party meeting next week.

“I welcome anybody to run,” Polivka said. “I’m always up for good competition. But it needs to be on the same level playing field. We all need to be precinct committee members. If Mark was really interested in running, he should have run for precinct committeeman.”

Alberini said, “I’m not trying to skirt any rules.”

He added, “If people believe we can do so much better (as a party) and there’s room for improvement, they have a choice” for chairman.

Regarding DeMora’s decision, Polivka said, “He told us (Alberini) couldn’t run and now says he can. We’ll look into that. It seems like (DeMora) is shooting things off from the hip.”

Polivka said there were two times in the past 40 years in which a candidate who wasn’t a central committee member planned to run for chairman, but chose not to because of the party rule.

Alberini had initially said he wouldn’t challenge Polivka and supported his re-election. But a couple of days later, Alberini said he “was still evaluating” a chairman’s run when he made the statements and after further consideration decided to seek the position.

Alberini was a central committee member for about 30 years before moving four years ago to Vienna. He chose not to challenge the incumbent central committee member in his precinct.

Alberini was among Polivka’s 50 at-large appointees to the committee. Polivka removed him last week after Alberini said he was going to challenge him for chairman.

Polivka has received criticism as chairman after the November 2020 election that saw him lose his county commissioner’s position as well as other defeats of incumbent Democrats. Before that election, some had objected to Polivka serving as party chairman and as a county commissioner. He was commissioner from January 2005 to December 2020.

In DeMora’s review of Alberini’s eligibility, he said he found “several provisions” in the Trumbull Democratic Party’s constitution that are “unenforceable as they conflict” with either state statute or ODP and Democratic National Committee rules.

Among the violations of state law is a requirement for those running for the party’s principal offices to get at least 25 signatures from central committee members and that the principal officers appoint the treasurer, according to DeMora.

Trumbull Democrats will have a committee work with the ODP to make changes to be in compliance, Polivka said.

dskolnick@vindy.com

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