DeSantis-Vance rally organizers scramble to nail down new venue
YOUNGSTOWN — Organizers of a planned Aug. 19 Youngstown rally for J.D. Vance, the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate, and headlined by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, may have found a new location — after the operator of the venue where it was to be held said he never agreed to have it on that date.
It could be at the Eastwood Event Centre in Niles.
Joe Rzonsa, who operates Blue Wolf Events at the Maronite Center in Youngstown, said officials with Turning Point Action, which booked the rally, initially asked a week ago about availability Friday. That date would have worked, he said.
Then the organization asked Monday to change it to Aug. 19 and Rzonsa said that was impossible because the St. Maron Maronite Catholic Church uses the entire facility that weekend for its annual festival.
“They said they’d get back to us after we said no,” Rzonsa said Tuesday of Turning Point. “Then I saw the press release, and we said it needs to be retracted. We haven’t heard anything back from Turning Point.”
When Turning Point, a Republican organization, announced the Vance-DeSantis event location Monday, Rzonsa said he had already informed them his location was unavailable.
“I woke up (Tuesday) to a lot of phone calls and emails from a lot of confused people,” he said.
Turning Point officials were in discussions Tuesday with the Eastwood Event Centre, 5577 Youngstown Warren Road in Niles, to have the event there. A deal could be finalized as early as today.
The center is where an Aug. 22 fundraiser for state Rep. Mike Loychik, R-Bazetta, featuring Donald Trump Jr., will take place.
The Vance-DeSantis event is listed on eventbrite.com as occurring in Ohio, but no date or location is provided.
The Vance campaign referred comment to Turning Point, which is organizing campaign visits for DeSantis, considered a leading potential 2024 presidential candidate.
A Turning Point spokesman didn’t return messages Tuesday seeking comment.
It also was reported Tuesday that another DeSantis event earlier in the day on Aug. 19 in Pittsburgh with Doug Mastriano, the Republican gubernatorial candidate in Pennsylvania, also is being moved from the location announced a day earlier.
That event was to be held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, but there is a scheduling conflict so it will have to move.
The convention center’s website lists Netroots Nation as having its annual convention at the facility from Aug. 18 to 21. Netroots is a politically progressive organization.
Mahoning County Republican Party Chairman Tom McCabe, who has rented the Maronite Center for party events, said the Aug. 19 weekend is the only time when the facility can’t be used because of the festival.
“You have vendors and rides that take up the entire area,” he said. “I’m calling some other places to help out. It’s still occurring, but we’re looking for a new location.”
Vance, a venture capitalist and author, is running against U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, a 10-term congressman and the Democratic nominee for the open Senate seat. Incumbent Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, chose not to seek re-election.
The scheduling blunder led Izzi Levy, Ryan’s campaign spokeswoman, to say about Vance: “It must be tough for someone who’s spent so much time away from Ohio to try to get their footing here. We’re happy to send him a phone book if it would help J.D. Vance meet a real Ohioan.”
Polls show a tight race between Vance and Ryan with the latter raising significantly more money in a Republican-controlled state. There also is a lot of outside spending in this race.
Youngstown appears to have been chosen for a couple of reasons: It is in Ryan’s congressional district and DeSantis’ family is from Mahoning County.
His maternal grandfather, Phil Rogers, was Mahoning County Republican Party chairman in the late 1960s to the early 1970s and worked at Youngstown State University as an administrator.