Ryan boasts of endorsement

The day after the Trumbull County Democratic Party’s central and executive committees endorsed candidates in the March 17 primary, the campaign of U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan sent an email saying the congressman was “pleased and grateful” to receive the support.

“I’ve been fortunate to work closely with one of the strongest and most determined county parties in the state and country, and their support is critical to our success,” said Ryan, D-Howland.

There were two things that immediately stood out when I read this.

The first was Ryan is running unopposed in the Democratic primary for the first time since 2012 and Trumbull Democrats endorsed all uncontested Democrats in the primary by acclamation. He would have received the endorsement even with a challenger, but this is not a major accomplishment.

The second is Ryan’s praise of the Trumbull Democrats.

It was just two years ago that Ryan defied the party by endorsing incumbent county Commissioner Frank Fuda over Lisha Pompili Baumiller. She received the party’s endorsement by a vote of 91 to 84 with Fuda contending party Chairman Dan Polivka, a fellow county commissioner, stacked votes against him with his appointment of numerous executive committee members. Fuda would go on to defeat Pompili Baumiller in the primary 72 percent to 28 percent.

Polivka said after Ryan made a video endorsing Fuda: “I think it is disrespectful to the wishes of the precinct committeemen that are elected throughout the neighborhoods of Trumbull County that endorsed both Tim and Lisha. I’m disappointed.”

Also, in 2016, Trumbull County voted for Donald Trump, only the third time since 1932 that it backed a Republican for president. The two other times were the re-elections of Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 and Richard Nixon in 1972.

While there are no Republican countywide executive-branch officeholders in Trumbull, it’s a stretch to call it “one of the strongest and most determined county parties in the state and country.”

Ryan also could have boasted about getting the Mahoning County Democratic Party endorsement. Mahoning Democrats, effective this year, eliminated endorsements for open seats and also chose to automatically endorse incumbents in primaries unless a majority of committee members signed a letter asking for a meeting to reconsider that. There wasn’t a meeting, but Ryan is the endorsed candidate of the Mahoning County Democratic Party.

As for the Trumbull Democratic Party meeting itself, it opened on a peculiar note. The flag at Enzo’s Restaurant and Lounge, where the meeting was held, was missing. There was talk that the local Rotary Club had the flag. But that didn’t stop party members from pledging allegiance to county Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa’s flag lapel pin.

Incredibly, I’ve seen worse. Once the Mahoning County Democratic Party pledged allegiance to an American flag shirt worn by a woman.

Two of the three Trumbull Democratic endorsements weren’t close votes.

Polivka received 146 votes to 15 for David M. Guarino. Carl F. Clemens, who’s also challenging Polivka, wasn’t at the meeting because of an illness, but it wouldn’t have mattered.

State Rep. Gil Blair easily got the endorsement for the Ohio House’s 63rd District seat with 70 votes to 10 for Werner Lange. Niles Councilman-at-Large Barry Profato, who’s also running against Blair, didn’t seek the endorsement. That too wouldn’t have mattered as he probably would have done better than Lange, but not by much.

Knowing Lange for several years, I received a lot of inquiries from party regulars about him. My answer: “Yes, he has always been that colorful.”

The only competitive vote was for engineer with incumbent Randy Smith beating David DeChristofaro, who was previously engineer, 86-70.

Smith said it was close because of DeChristofaro’s “negative campaigning and I didn’t have time to address it.”

If that’s the case — and I’m not sure it is — Smith had better be more prepared for the March 17 primary if he wants to get re-elected.

Skolnick covers politics for the Tribune Chronicle and The Vindicator.