What had all the makings of a verbal prize fight last week between Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, and Mahoning County Democratic Party chairman David Betras fizzled like the wick on a dud firecracker.
Betras was surprisingly calm, holding his temper in check publicly (although he had to be fuming privately) when notice of his rejection to become a member of the Mahoning County Board of Elections was made in a biting letter Monday from the state's top election official to the chairman.
Husted wrote Betras was ''not competent'' to serve on the board, citing the chairman's involvement in ''wrongful conduct'' as treasurer of an office transition account for ex-Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann.
Betras, never a target of the investigation that led to charges against Dann, bit his tongue, saying he was upset Husted penned such a stinging letter and made the decision without so much as a courtesy call for an explanation.
The most inflammatory statement Betras said to this writer was that he hoped the decision wasn't politically motivated, a far cry from what other Democrats said when news of Husted's decision spread.
Betras was frustrated when fellow Democrat, state Rep. Bob Hagan, known to never mince words, came out swinging a day later at the secretary of state in a letter he says was accidentally released to the media.
In his letter, Hagan expressed his shock that Husted linked Betras' service as transition account treasurer and his fitness to be an elections board member. He wrote of previous questions surrounding Husted as a state legislator living in the right district and dealings with special interest groups.
Betras responded by saying he wished his friend refrained from escalating the situation.
And it appears Hagan didn't.
The office viewed it as Hagan simply coming to the defense of his friend and on Friday, Betras and Husted had a face-to-face conversation, called by the secretary ''informative and constructive.''
It was an opportunity to clear the air. As a result, Betras withdrew his name from consideration and in exchange, Husted rescinded the letter denying the chairman's appointment.
There remains a Monday deadline for the party's executive committee to make another recommendation.
Betras was wise not to challenge Husted's decision, instead opting to file another name for the secretary of state's approval, which keeps the ability to choose a replacement for Michael Morley, who stepped down in September, in the hands of the local party members.
Trumbull County Democratic Party's executive committee did not submit another name when Husted in March rejected county commissioner and party chairman Dan Polivka's bid to temporarily sit on the county elections board and Husted wound up making the appointment.
On Friday, executive committee members picked George Beelen, a retired Youngstown State University history professor and former trustee in Austintown, as the recommendation to Husted.