Wednesday, April 23, 2014


At first blush, one might ask:  what is all the "to-do" about whom gets elected Alliance City Council president between Councilwoman Sue Ryan (Democrat; council-at-large) and Steve Okey (Democrat; a former councilman)?

And, why would anybody want to bring the revered and recently deceased longtime council president (1994) John Benincasa into the fray?

On April 30th (one week from today), the Alliance members of the Stark County Democratic Party Central Committee (SCDP-CC/Alliance) will be selecting from among present city council president pro tem Sue Ryan (Democrat - council at large) and former city councilman/councilman-at-large (and Alliance mayoralty candidate [2011] Steve Okey for the Carnation City's council president.


Why don't we just go watch paint dry?

Not so quick!

The Stark County Political Report for one thinks that there is much more at play than merely electing a Benincasa successor.


 Okay, "i'll bite.  'Much more at stake.'  Exactly what?

How about who becomes Stark County's next sheriff?


That's what The Report is thinking?

How's that?

Well, originally it was thought that George T. Maier appendage Derrick Loy would be vying for the presidency with some thought that Loy might be asked to step aside if Okey decided he wants to re-enter Alliance political life.

The Report is told that Loy had been working feverishly on a seeming daily basis contacting SCDP-CC/Alliance members repetitively in his quest to get commitments for a majority of their votes on April 30th.

That is, until Okey decided he wanted in.

Naturally, Loy was going to make a quick exit and through his all-out support to Okey inasmuch as the two are very thick politically.

Evidence of the Loy/Okey relationship please!

From an April 16, 2014 SCPR blog:
Beyond the Loy/Okey/Maier ties there are, of course, the Okey/George T. Maier ties.

Some think that the primary motivation for the Okey versus Alliance City Council lawsuit (filed February 4, 2014) was to embarrass Alliance City councilman and in earnest Okey political foe:  Republican Larry Dordea.

As pointed out by the SCPR in a blog done February 13th, Okey in his lawsuit chose to identify the collective defendants in the lawsuit as being "defendants Dordea."


Well, it so happens that Okey was one of the lawyers for Stark County Democratic Party chairman Randy Gonzalez and the SCDP-CC ( and thereby necessarily defended a George T. Maier interest) in a mandamus action brought days before the December 13, 2013 SCDP-CC selection date (which action failed) to keep Maier from being considered on the 13th.

Dordea himself, though a Republican, was himself a candidate on the 13th to be appointed Stark County sheriff by the Dems.

And, of course, Dordea is the Republican candidate for sheriff against Maier in November's general election.

Okey vehemently denies (LINK) that the lawsuit had anything whatsoever to do with his connection to the Maier/Dordea contest for sheriff.

The SCPR puts that under the category of  "the denial may be true, but who is going to believe it?"

Certainly, Larry Dordea doesn't.

The Report's take on Dordea is that he believes that the lawsuit and Okey's entry into the Alliance council presidency race has "everything to do" with the Dordea/Maier face off and nothing to do with Okey's professed concern about "sunshine in government" or wanting, from the council presidency chair to keep Alliance City Council "on the straight and narrow."

As if to prove that he is the equal of if not superior to Okey in political "wheelin and dealin," Dordea, the SCPR thinks, did his "one up you Steve Okey" at an Alliance City Council meeting this past Monday.

Let's have Alliance Review reporter Stephanie Ujhelyi tell it (Ryan named council president pro tem, April 22, 2014):
What would John do?

Those were the words on Alliance Council President Pro Tem Lawrence Dordea's mind when he stepped down from the late John Benincasa's chair Monday night at the start of council's regular meeting. And he wasted no time in throwing his support behind at large Councilwoman Sue Ryan to fill the position, albeit temporarily.

Dordea, R-3, remarked to the audience, "It's not often that I call a chair by name, but it seems inappropriate for a Republican to sit in (longtime Democrat) John Benincasa's seat. I'm resigning (from his chair) because it's the right thing to do. We want to avoid partisan and conflict re-entering those doors," he said as he motioned to the back doors of council chambers.


What a show of "non-partisanship," no?

Forgive the SCPR's skepticism, but The Report is not buying.

Not any more that the SCPR buys Okey's claim to be politically unmotivated in his having filed the aforementioned lawsuit, his naming the defendants "defendant Dordea," and his running for Alliance City Council president.

Hence the Stark County Political Report's theme for this blog:  "there is a lot more to the fight over the Alliance City Council presidency than what appears on the surface."

Should Steve Okey get elected, the SCPR has no doubt that he will use the position to promote Maier's candidacy for sheriff.

Maier has no political base in Alliance, he and his brother Johnnie A. Maier, Jr. (who, by the way, Okey is currently representing in a tiff with the union representing Masillon policemen) have a Maier political machine base in Massillon).

The SCPR thinks that the Maiers are using Okey and Loy as George's political operatives in Alliance and eastern Stark County.

The question for Dordea is:  can he counter them by making them defend the Maier home turf in western Stark County?

So to Ujheli's question, What would John do?

The SCPR thinks nobody knows.

And in all due respect to John Benincasa, even if his desires were known, the "realpolitks" of the matter is what are the 15 SCDP-CC/Alliance members going to do on April 30th.

More importantly in the context of "realpolitik" is what Stark Dems chairman Randy Gonzalez thinks.

The SCPR thinks whether or not he will admit it publicly (like he did in coming out for George T. Maer over Lou Darrow for the SCDP-CC appointment for sheriff on the inability of November, 2012 Sheriff-elect Mike McDonald to take office on January 7, 2013), Gonzalez is solidly in the Okey camp and will do what he can to influence SCDP-CC/Alliance members to support the former Alliance councilman.

There are already signs of that in the selection of the site at which the SCDP-CC/Alliance members will meet next Wednesday to select Benincasa's successor.

When Ward 2 Alliance Councilwoman Phyllis Phillips resigned her seat in February of this year, the Ward 2 precinct committee persons met in Alliance.  And this is the standard practice for the Stark Dems.

But where is the meeting going to be held on the Ryan/Okey square off?

At Stark Dems' party headquarters on 12th Street in Canton, that's where!

And who arranged for that site?

The SCPR is told that it is one Derrick Loy who - over the head of Ryan (the eastern Stark County Democratic Party coordinator) is said to after conferring with Gonzalez decided that the Alliance 15 will have to travel to Whipple and 12th Street to make their selection.

Maybe the travel causes more trouble to Ryan supporters than Okey's?


While Democrat Sue Ryan is on record in supporting Democrat George T. Maier for sheriff come November, the SCPR knowing how the Maiers and Gonzalez think when it comes to "matters political," Ryan does not come anywhere near having the pro-George T. Maier credentials that Steve Okey does and there is no doubt with the Stark County Political Report that the Maiers, (Johnnie, Jr is executive vice chairman of the Stark Dems and George is on the executive committee), Gonzalez and Loy are in "a full court press mode" to ensure Okey's selection.

Dordea's move on Monday night will - the SCPR believes - "stoke the fires" of "political paranoia" among the Maiers and their allies.

 Undoubtedly Dordea's gesture will be used by Okey and his supporters to twist the arms of the SCDP-CC/Alliance arms "Okey's way."

Ryan, for her part, says she thinks that Chairman Gonzalez will stay out of  the selection process.

The Report does not think so.

Ryan will make a fight of it.

And the SCPR thinks she - if elected council president - will carry on the tradition of John Benincasa of ending politics when the election is over and done with and therefore should be the heir apparent.

The question is can she and her supporters match/exceed Okey and friends in political sophistication.

Such is likely to be the determinant of the outcome; not the "What John would do" question.


Here is the content of a series of question that Steve Okey answered for the SCPR about the selection process:

Do you think had it been a case of not passing away but retiring (before term expiration) and the situation of you and Ryan competing to succeed him that Benincasa would have endorsed you over her?

I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to speculate about what might have happened under other circumstances.  John and I enjoyed a warm and friendly relationship, as he did with many others.  I do know, however, that John very strongly supported me during my run for mayor in 2011.  Attached is the newspaper ad that John wrote and that we ran during the campaign.  I was very thankful for his steadfast public support.  

Do you think that there was a political motivation for Dordea having done what he did last night in stepping down given your association with George Maier in the qualification battle, given the lawsuit you filed tagging the defendants with Dordea's name?

Rather than speculating, I think this is a question that is better directed to Mr. Dordea.

I have been told that Benincasa was infuriated with your lawsuit against selected members of Alliance City Council.  Do you dispute this claim?  If so, please expound on your reasons for taking exception.

John never mentioned to me any reaction about the court action.  He always spoke candidly and I never knew him to hold back if he had a view to share.

I have attached a copy of the list of SCDP-CC/Alliance listing as provided to me by Jeanette Mullane "as of" yesterday as an "up-to-date" listing.  Would you assess the listing for whom you think will be supporting you versus whom will be supporting Ryan come next Wednesday and share your assessment with me?

I am thankful for the expressions of support that I have already received from many Central Committee members, but I don’t think it would be appropriate to publicly comment on how they may exercise their right to vote.



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