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Polivka should resign as local Dem party chair

Voters spoke. It’s time for a change in county government leadership, they said.

The Trumbull County Board of Elections this week certified the results of the Nov. 3 election in which Republican challenger Niki Frenchko unseated longtime Trumbull County Commissioner Dan Polivka by a nearly 5 percent margin.

Polivka also is the Trumbull County Democratic Party chairman. Perhaps now also is a good time for a change in party leadership.

To be blunt, under Polivka’s leadership, the party is falling apart. Longtime Democratic elected officials were backing Republican candidates, including Frenchko and Mike Loychik, the Cortland Republican who defeated Democratic office holder Gil Blair as 63rd District representative.

Even Democrat and longtime Trumbull Commissioner Frank Fuda, who serves alongside Polivka, was publicly campaigning in favor of Polivka’s Republican challenger.

This came after Polivka, as Democratic Party chairman, pushed for the party leadership to endorse Democrat Lisha Pompili-Baumiller over Fuda for the Democratic nomination in the 2018 primary election. Fuda rolled to victory with 70 percent of the vote.

Indeed, it was under Polivka’s tutelage that local Democrats saw their comfortable place in political office wither in this year’s election.

Longtime Ohio Sen. Sean O’Brien, D-Bazetta, was defeated by Ashtabula County Republican Sandra O’Brien.

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Howland, maintained his congressional seat, but lost in his home county of Trumbull by more than 1,000 votes to a Republican challenger, Christina Hagan, who doesn’t even live in the 13th Congressional District.

Ohio Rep. Mike O’Brien, D-Warren, hung on to beat Republican Martha Yoder of West Farmington by a razor-thin margin, but in doing so, faced the toughest challenge of his political life.

And let’s not forget that for two straight elections, Republican Donald Trump has turned Trumbull County red, this year by an even greater margin than he won the county in 2016.

Now, we don’t blame solely Polivka for all these tight races and Democratic party losses, but it is clear to us the local party has been missing vocal and dedicated leadership.

Last month, for instance, when we invited the four major political party chairpeople from Trumbull and Mahoning counties to write guest columns supporting their party’s presidential candidate for publication on our newspaper opinion pages, three jumped at the opportunity and participated without hesitation. Trumbull County Republican Party Chairman Kevin Wyndham and Mahoning County Republican Party Chairman Tom McCabe each wrote ringing endorsements for Donald Trump before the election. Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairwoman Joyce Kale-Pesta happily provided content in strong support of Joe Biden.

However, after hesitation, Polivka passed on the opportunity to publicly support Biden. We wonder if his decision came due to conflict over votes it might have cost in his commissioner race in this now right-leaning county. If so, what an untenable position for a party leader. Later, he offered to allow another Trumbull County Democratic Party officer to write the op-ed in his place.

Instead, we opted to publish Kale-Pesta’s words in his place.

The incident should lead local Democrats to question where Polivka’s focus and dedication are.

We have consistently raised questions about Polivka’s dual role as Trumbull County commissioner and Trumbull County Democratic Party chairman — both very powerful political positions in the county.

We believe doing both jobs presented a conflict of interest that did not serve the Trumbull County voters well. Party leaders should not hold public office because the threat and appearance of impropriety are great.

Polivka has consistently disagreed.

Now that Polivka has lost his commissioner seat, however, other Democrats in the party are calling for him to step down as party chairman, a post he’s held since 2010 and that expires in 2022.

The day after the election, Mike O’Brien said the “Democratic Party in Trumbull County has to reorganize and refocus its message. It’s obvious it lacks leadership.”

Said O’Brien of Polivka, “It’s time to step down.”

Others in the party also have raised questions about the party’s direction and leadership.

It’s apparent Polivka’s efforts to do both jobs have not worked. Constituents have decided to go in a different direction in the commissioners race, and now many in his party believe he has let down the party, also.

Polivka must do the right thing and step down from his role as Trumbull County Democratic Party chairman.

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