Ins, outs of party leadership

Kevin Wyndham said he is resigning Feb. 1 as Trumbull County Republican Party chairman primarily because the job is too demanding.

This is the third time a Mahoning Valley political party chairman left the position early in recent years.

Mark Munroe retired Feb. 21, 2019, as Mahoning County Republican Party chairman after nine years, saying it “is not an easy job. You make a decision and you make half of your supporters unhappy. Then you make another decision, and you make the other half unhappy.”

Soon after, Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras resigned effective May 15, 2019, after 10 years running the party, to devote more time to family and his law practice.

At the time he said it would be “disrespectful” to “publicly chastise” President Donald Trump while his son, Joseph, serves in the Army. Of course, it really didn’t stop Betras from criticizing the Republican president. But Betras repeatedly said he doesn’t regret stepping down.

For Wyndham, he said when he took over for Randy Law as chairman in a power struggle in 2017, he intended to stay only until that term expired in 2018. But when no one stepped forward to seek the office, he ran again.

“It’s been brewing for a while,” he said of his resignation. “My daughter’s graduating high school this year. I have two companies to run. Being chairman takes a lot of time. It’s more demanding than what people think. I didn’t want to let it consume me. To give it the time needed, I’d have to make sacrifices I wasn’t willing to make.”

Wyndham, who had COVID-19 Oct. 17 to Nov. 20, and other medical ailments, said his decision “wasn’t motivated by a single event. I was also looking out for the party. We’ve got some serious races in 2022. This way we’ll have someone in place before that.”

The party’s central committee will meet within 20 days after Wyndham’s Feb. 1 resignation takes effect to select a new chairman. Because of the pandemic, Wyndham said the party is struggling to find a location to accommodate 70 to 80 committee members.

Jackie Loges, first vice chairwoman, will serve as interim head beginning Feb. 1 until a successor is chosen. She isn’t believed to be interested in the top spot.

Wyndham said he’s heard of two or three people who may seek the chairmanship, but he declined to name them.

The unexpired term runs through June 2022.

Trumbull Republicans won’t be the only ones seeking a new leader.

Joyce Kale-Pesta, who took over after Betras resigned and also serves as director of Mahoning County Board of Elections, has made clear she’s not interested in seeking a full term when hers ends in June 2022.

Thomas McCabe, who succeeded Munroe and also serves as Mahoning County Board of Elections deputy director, said he will run for a four-year term next year. He’s a shoo-in for reelection.

“It’s only my second year and I’m enjoying it,” he said. “We’ve made progress. We’ve got a good base.”

Then, there’s Trumbull County Democratic Party Chairman Dan Polivka, on the job for nearly 11 years.

Polivka experienced a bad election for Trumbull Democrats that included his defeat as a county commissioner while other Democrats lost or won by closer margins than in previous years.

Polivka said he plans to finish his term, telling me the day after his defeat that the party “will regroup” and “is still viable.”

Except for his old job as Trumbull County commissioner, every countywide executive branch position is held by Democrats, even though Republicans captured Ohio Senate and House seats, and nearly won the other House position in November.

Also, Trump became the first Republican to win Trumbull County in two consecutive presidential elections since 1932 — and it wasn’t even close. Trump won by 10.56 percent. How much responsibility Polivka bears for that is debatable.

What will happen next year if Polivka decides to run for re-election is an interesting question.

It’s hard to beat a sitting incumbent party chairman in this area, as the central committee consists of party loyalists. Wyndham beating Law was an exception, and that was a drawn-out mess.

But will Trumbull Democrats decide next year that Polivka has overstayed his welcome? Or perhaps he will come to that realization himself.


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