Political heavyweights eye seats
Michael J. O’Brien, Frank Fuda and Dan Polivka have more than 100 years of elected experience between them and are three of the most successful Democratic politicians in the Mahoning Valley.
And all three have big decisions to make soon about their political futures.
At least two of them will run next year for Trumbull County commissioner with an outside chance that all three will seek the office.
Fuda, who is in his fourth four-year term, said he definitely will seek re-election next year — but he’s undecided whether it’ll be as a Democrat or independent.
“I have a lot of Republicans and a lot of Democrats who support me,” Fuda said. “I work for all the people in Trumbull County. I’ve just got to make a decision how I’m running. I have no problem with Democrats. The real Democrats support me.”
A lifelong Democrat, Fuda has a strained relationship with Polivka, county party chairman.
Fuda campaigned for Republican Niki Frenchko last year in her successful challenge to Polivka in a county commissioner’s race. She beat Polivka, a 16-year incumbent, by 4.66 percent.
That led to bad feelings with some Democrats and a two-year suspension from his hometown Niles Democratic Club. Fuda served on Niles council for 16 years before being elected county commissioner.
Back in the 2018 Democratic primary, the county party endorsed then-Hubbard Councilwoman Lisha Pompili-Baumiller over Fuda, the incumbent, by a 91-84 vote. Fuda won the primary by 44.1 percent and was re-elected, beating two candidates including Frenchko, who ran as an independent, in the general election.
Fuda said his relationship with Frenchko has crumbled since he helped get her elected, but he doesn’t regret campaigning against Polivka.
“I got rid of the major problem in the county, and that’s Dan,” he said.
As for Frenchko, Fuda said: “This lady doesn’t make any sense. She doesn’t understand what a commissioner does. I had no idea how bad it could get, but I don’t wish I had Dan back.”
O’Brien cannot run next year for his seat in the Ohio House because of term limits.
While he hasn’t made an official announcement yet, he definitely plans a run for commissioner next year — even if that means facing Fuda.
All he is saying now is: “I’m looking at it.”
O’Brien is a former county commissioner who also served as Warren mayor and a city councilman. In all, he’s won 28 elections dating back almost 40 years.
O’Brien said he was unsure if Fuda would run because the incumbent said during the 2018 campaign that would be his final term.
Fuda said that isn’t true.
“I don’t care if Mike runs, but I was upset when Mike said I wouldn’t run,” he said. “I don’t know why people make up stories. Just run on your own merit.”
Trumbull County Auditor Adrian Biviano, a Democrat, announced last week that he won’t seek re-election next year, leading county Recorder Tod Latell, also a Democrat, to pick up petitions for a run for the seat.
Also, Republican Martha Yoder filed a designation of treasurer for the job. Yoder, a former Farmington trustee, lost three times to O’Brien for state representative, including by only 0.74 percent last year. It should be noted the House district takes in less than half of Trumbull County and doesn’t include Democratic strongholds such as Niles, Girard, Hubbard and Liberty.
There was some speculation that Polivka would be appointed recorder by the county Democratic Party, which would make that decision, if Latell wins the auditor’s race next year. As party chairman, it’s not a stretch to say Polivka wields a lot of influence over its members.
However, Polivka, who served 20 years as a Warren councilman before becoming county commissioner, dismissed that rumor saying: “I don’t think I’d be interested in that. My management style is being a commissioner and working with economic development.”
There are people interested in the recorder position should Latell get elected auditor, Polivka said, but he’s not one of them.
That appointment would be a long time from now as the auditor’s term wouldn’t start until “the second Monday in March after his election,” according to Ohio Revised Code — March 13, 2023.
Polivka said he’s eyeing a rematch with Frenchko in 2024, but said there is a slim possibility he’d run for Fuda’s seat next year.
“A lot of people have asked me to run for commissioner for stability and progress in that office,” Polivka said. “I haven’t ruled out next year, but if I ran, I’d probably want to run for my seat that was taken from me.”