Potential Michael O’Brien successors ready runs
Term limits keep state rep from seeking re-election; port authority director ponders Loychik challenge
With state Rep. Michael J. O’Brien unable to run next year for re-election because of the state term limits law, a number of people are looking to succeed him.
Also, John Moliterno, the executive director of the Western Reserve Port Authority and a Democratic at-Large councilman in Girard, is giving strong consideration to challenging freshman state Rep. Michael Loychik, R-Bazetta, in 2022.
The filing deadline for the 2022 election will be in early February.
The two districts split Trumbull County with O’Brien’s district also including six southern communities in Ashtabula County.
Redistricting of the state legislative lines will change the current makeup of the 63rd and 64th districts, currently represented by Loychik and O’Brien, D-Warren, respectively, and quite likely the districts’ numbers.
O’Brien said he expects the Ashtabula part of his district to be removed and lines in Trumbull County could be drawn to give Loychik more Republican parts while taking away some of the Democratic communities.
O’Brien is serving his fourth two-year term in the House. Under state law, he cannot seek another term in 2022.
Nick Santucci of Howland already has decided to run as a Republican to succeed O’Brien, and has a fundraiser planned July 13 at DiVieste’s Banquet Centre.
“I’m running because I believe the Valley’s best days are ahead of us,” he said. “We’ve been through a lot over the years, but we’ve always persevered. Our area deserves better than the same individuals who have been elected since I was a child, jumping from office to office. We need more people with energy, passion and fresh ideas stepping up that are willing to put in the work to help us build a better future.”
Santucci started this month as a senior consultant for workforce and community engagement for VAZA Consulting, based in Pickerington. Before that he spent about a year as director of government affairs and workforce development at the Educational Service Center of Eastern Ohio.
Santucci previously spent more than five years at the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber including nearly two years as its director of government and public affairs and the rest of the time as its head of education and workforce development.
Trumbull County Democratic Party Chairman Dan Polivka said two Democrats — Braceville Fiscal Officer Tom Shay and Vincent Peterson II, who works for U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan — are considering runs next year for the state House position.
Shay was first elected fiscal officer of his township in 2011 as an 18-year-old, winning by 23 votes, and was re-elected in 2015 and 2019, running unopposed both times. Shay also is an accountant with Redwood Living of Independence, working there since February 2015.
“It’s something I’m definitely considering,” Shay said. “I haven’t made a decision yet. I’m continuing to think about it. I have served as a township fiscal officer for 10 years, and seeing how things on the state level impact my community, it has sparked my interest.”
Peterson has served as a community affairs liaison for Ryan, D-Howland, since May 2017. Before that, he was a parole officer for nearly four years.
Loychik has served in the Ohio House for a little more than five months.
Attempts Wednesday to reach Loychik for comment on his re-election plans were unsuccessful. He hasn’t returned numerous telephone calls, emails and text messages from this newspaper since he was elected last November.
But the Republican, who won during his first time seeking elected office last year, could face a political veteran in the 2022 general election.
Moliterno said he has a strong interest in seeking the seat.
Moliterno has served as WRPA’s executive director since June 2015, after being named interim director in September 2014. Moliterno also is a former president and CEO of the regional chamber and the Better Business Bureau of Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull Counties.
Moliterno spent 14 years on the Girard school board and was elected to city council in 1999. After four years on council, he became Girard city treasurer for eight years and then returned to city council, holding an at-Large seat ever since. He was unopposed in last month’s Democratic primary for his seat and is running unopposed in the November general election.
Moliterno said he is going to retire next February from the port authority and want “to continue serving the Mahoning Valley.”
The Ohio House seat “will fit timing-wise when I step down from the port authority,” he said. “If you want to create change, you need to be involved.”
Polivka said Moliterno “will be a strong, formidable candidate.”
The 63rd District currently consists of Bazetta, Brookfield, Cortland, Girard, Fowler, Hartford, Vernon, Hubbard, Liberty, Lordstown, McDonald, Newton Falls, Newton Township, Niles, Vienna and Weathersfield.
The 64th District currently includes Warren, Bloomfield, Braceville, Bristol, Champion, Farmington, Greene, Gustavus, Howland, Johnston, Kinsman, Mecca, Mesopotamia, Southington and Warren Township as well as six communities in Ashtabula County.