GOP sets sights on 2016 election

On the side

Republican Gov. John Kasich filed a full slate of delegates and alternates in his home state for his long-shot bid for the presidency.

Among his delegates are Columbiana County Republican Party Chairman David Johnson and Tracey Winbush, the Mahoning County Republican Party vice chairman. Mahoning GOP Chairman Mark Munroe is an alternate delegate for Kasich.

No one was going to beat Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor of the Ohio Supreme Court in next year’s election. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Ohio Democratic Party didn’t bother to put up a sacrificial lamb as an opponent against the Republican chief justice in the 2016 election. Democrats instead focused on candidates for the two open seats on the court.

Republicans control the U.S. House in Ohio with a 12-4 advantage. While Democrats have very little chance of changing that – Republicans successfully gerrymandered the state’s congressional districts – the party was able to field candidates in all 16 House races. Some candidates are obviously better than others.

I will be on vacation next week so there won’t be a column next Friday.

Feeling empowered by the 2014 general election, the Mahoning County Republican Party fielded candidates in eight of the 11 nonjudicial races on the 2016 ballot.

That includes the county’s two state House seats, two commissioner positions, clerk of courts, recorder, coroner and treasurer.

The party doesn’t have candidates in the races for sheriff, prosecutor and engineer.

Democrats have incumbents in all 11 races with three facing challengers in the primary. However, E. Richard Berger, who is challenging Commissioner David Ditzler, turned in nominating petitions with 52 signatures. He needs at least 50 to qualify for the primary, and that could prove to be an issue.

In comparison to their 2016 slate, Republicans had candidates in only two of these races in 2012. Those two candidates had double-digit defeats.

The Republican success last year was helped by a number of factors including an incredibly weak gubernatorial candidate at the top of the Democratic ticket, the resignation of Probate Court Judge Mark Belinky, a Democrat, after being convicted of tampering with records, a felony; and incumbent county Auditor Michael V. Sciortino, also a Democrat, under criminal indictment in the Oakhill Renaissance Place criminal-corruption case.

Even with multiple criminal charges facing Sciortino, Republican Ralph Meacham won by only 3.6 percentage points.

In the probate judicial race, Robert Rusu, an independent appointed by the Republican governor to replace Belinky, also won a close race – 3.5 percentage points – over Democrat Susan Maruca.

“In 2014, voters responded by electing some quality candidates – Republicans and an independent – in spite of the large advantage that Democrats have in voter registration,” said county Republican Party Chairman Mark Munroe. The other Republican he’s referring to is incumbent U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson in the 18-county 6th Congressional District.

Among the Republicans who filed to run next year are George Levendis, Campbell council president, against Ditzler.

I joked to Munroe that I didn’t think there were any Republicans in Campbell, much less one serving as an elected official. Campbell candidates don’t run with party affiliations as per the city charter.

Turns out that of the 5,458 registered voters in the city, there are 1,470 Democrats and 154 Republicans. I wasn’t too far off.

Corrine L. Sanderson filed as a Republican to run for the 58th Ohio House District seat. What’s interesting is she was elected last month to a seat on the Youngstown school board and won’t start serving until Jan. 1. This gives new meaning to political seat jumping.

(Even more galling is McDonald Mayor Glenn W. Holmes and Hubbard Councilman Benjamin A. Kyle announced they’d be running in the March 15 Democratic primary for the 63rd Ohio House District seat before their November re-elections in which neither faced an opponent.)

The passage by Sanderson’s fellow Republicans in the state Legislature of the Youngstown Plan takes away local control of the district and puts it in the hands of a chief executive officer.

She said the law means she’d have more power over the school system in the state House rather than on the city school board.

However, the bill was signed into law July 16, and the filing deadline to run for the school board was Aug. 5 so why bother to run?

It’s going to be awkward when Sanderson starts serving on the school board in a position she clearly doesn’t want.

“Based on how dire the education situation is here, we need all hands on deck,” said Jacqueline Adair, a Youngstown school board member. “It doesn’t sound like she has that in mind. I’m a little shocked and surprised, and even a little disappointed she’s running for this position.”

Other Republicans include Steven M. Carter for county recorder and David Shaffer for clerk of courts. Both are coming off crushing defeats last month as independent candidates for Youngstown City Council.

Carter got 11.8 percent in the 3rd Ward race, and Shaffer got 18.4 percent.

Never at a loss for words, county Democratic Party Chairman David Betras said, “Valley residents will have the opportunity to choose between the highly effective, experienced, conscientious Democrats who are doing an outstanding job at the local, state and federal level, and Republican candidates who belong to a party that’s dominated by buffoons like Donald Trump.”

On the Democratic side, there are a few perennial candidates – who’ve lost numerous times – who filed to take on incumbents.

John Stephen Luchansky of Boardman is challenging U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, and David C. Cook of Warren will face Trumbull County Commissioner Daniel E. Polivka of Warren in the Democratic primaries. Luchansky and Cook have filed and lost several times.

Also, Michael E. O’Hara of Youngstown is challenging i ncumbent state Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan for the 58th Ohio House District Democratic primary. He finished third out of four candidates in the 2014 primary. This is at least O’Hara’s 10th time running for office. So far he’s 0-for-9.