YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Communities benefit from vibrant political parties whose candidates can argue opposing views and – ideally – develop policies and programs to benefit the majority and the minority.
That hasn’t been the case in Mahoning County.
For decades, the county has been dominated by Democrats and local party hacks who held nearly all offices as a barely breathing Republican Party failed to field viable candidates. Such a framework is a recipe for government inefficiency and corruption, both of which have been evident for decades.
At long last, ‘The times they are a-changin.’
Sparked by the energy generated by Donald Trump’s election as president two years ago, the Mahoning County Republican Party is now a major force in local politics. Chairman Mark Munroe deserves much credit for the building blocks he put in place over the last 10 years that enabled the county GOP to capitalize on disenchanted Democrats.
Most telling: The vote Nov. 6 when businessman Michael Rulli upset veteran Democratic officeholder John Boccieri for the Ohio Senate seat in the 33rd district. Rulli, the director of operations for his family’s 100-year-old supermarket business, is the president of the Leetonia School Board. His well-crafted, extremely well-funded campaign flustered Boccieri to the point that one of the Democrat’s ads falsely boasted about working with President Trump to fix unfair trade deals.
Boccieri was held to 53% of the vote in Mahoning County, rendering him vulnerable when Rulli ran up the totals in Republican friendly Columbiana County.
Consider also that the Democratic candidate for governor, Richard Cordray, received just 54% of the vote in Mahoning County. Eight years earlier, the incumbent governor, Democrat Ted Strickland, received nearly 66% of the county vote in his narrow loss to John Kasich.
Then there’s the case of Republican Don Manning who defeated Poland Township Trustee Eric Ungaro for state representative in the 59th district – the seat Boccieri held but was term-limited from again seeking. Democrats owned this district, like the 33rd senatorial district, for more than 40 years.
Two years ago, the chairman of the Mahoning County Democratic Party, attorney David Betras, crowed about how the national party did not heed his warnings that Hillary Clinton’s campaign was failing to address blue-collar concerns. Now it seems that Betras, too often a political showman, is headlining a production that has veered into farce. Betras made himself the target of ridicule when he arranged and touted a visit by California attorney Michael Avenatti (of Stormy Daniels fame) to headline political events here, not once but twice. Avenatti, whose credibility was badly damaged by his involvement with Julie Swetnick, one of Supreme Court Justice Brent Kavanaugh’s accusers, reportedly has discussed with Betras a 2020 presidential bid.
Editor’s Note: This editorial is published in the MidNovember print edition of The Business Journal, in subscribers’ mailboxes this week.
Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
CLICK HERE to subscribe to our print edition and sign up to our free daily headlines.