David Betras is re-elected Mahoning County Democratic Party chairman

By David Skolnick



Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras took a few moments to savor his re-election victory before turning his attention to those who opposed his candidacy.

At the top of the list was Mark Hanni, Democratic nominee for a county common-pleas-court seat. Judicial candidates aren’t permitted to involve themselves in partisan politics under the judicial code of conduct, and Hanni called precinct committee members on behalf of Socrates Kolitsos, another chairman candidate, Betras said.

Betras said of Hanni: “He will not be getting the support of the Democratic Party in this upcoming race. He will not be on any literature of the Democratic Party. He will not be part of the coordinated campaign.”

Hanni attended Saturday’s vote by precinct committee members. Attempts by The Vindicator to contact him by phone to comment after the meeting were unsuccessful.

Betras won the chairman’s race with 70.2 percent of the vote. He received 134 votes compared with 54 for Kolitsos and three for Rick Berger.

Kolitsos said Hanni didn’t tell him he was backing his candidacy, and wasn’t involved in his campaign. He added that he doesn’t know of any precinct committee members Hanni may have contacted.

During his speech, Betras spoke about the party’s accomplishments with him as chairman for the past five-plus years. The party, he said, raised about $750,000, more money than under any other chairman; every endorsed candidate but one won the Democratic primary; he’s given about $50,000 to the party; and he touted the attention the county party has received from state and national Democratic leaders.

He urged precinct committee members to not give control of the party to those who “deal in lies.”

Betras first was elected chairman April 27, 2009, to succeed Lisa Antonini, who resigned. Two years later, Antonini, who also served as county treasurer, was charged and subsequently convicted in federal court of a count of honest-services mail fraud.

Betras won a full four-year term June 2, 2010, and was re-elected Saturday. He has said this will be his last term as chairman.

Betras had a slate of candidates running with him. All but Kenneth Carano, seeking re-election as executive vice chairman, won.

Carano lost to Ronald Massullo on a third ballot of voting.

All candidates had to get one more vote than 50 percent to win.

On the first ballot, Carano got 45.3 percent to 41.7 percent for Massullo, and 13 percent for David Engler, who lost the party’s primary last month for a seat on the 7th District Court of Appeals.

The second ballot had Massullo with 48.5 percent, Carano with 44.9 percent and Engler with 6.6 percent. Under party rules, the person with the lowest amount on a second ballot is removed. On the third ballot, Massullo received 52 percent of the vote to 48 percent for Carano.

The other winners were: Jamael Tito Brown for vice chairman of minority affairs; Joe Halas — who ran unopposed, vice chairman of labor relations; Joyce Kale-Pesta, secretary; and Richard Clautti, treasurer.

The three who faced one opponent each all received more than 60 percent of the vote. Kale-Pesta ran against John Vivo, the incumbent for the past eight years. Betras backed Kale-Pesta because he said there should be a woman among the party officers. Jaladah Aslam, the only woman among party officers, didn’t seek re-election this year as vice chairwoman of labor relations.

Mahoning County Republicans also met Saturday, re-electing Mark Munroe chairman and Donna Bricker, chairwoman.

Tracey Winbush was elected vice chairman, replacing Ed Crepage, who didn’t seek re-election. They all ran unopposed.

Munroe, with the approval of Republican precinct committee members, selected Ruth Nabb to replace Winbush as party secretary, and to retain Mark Mangie as treasurer and Alex Mangie as deputy treasurer.