YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Mahoning County Republican Party Chairman Mark Munroe confirmed Tuesday that Canfield attorney Rob Rusu will replace Judge Mark Belinky as Mahoning County Probate Judge until February.
Rusu will serve as judge until he is replaced by the winner of the November election in the Mahoning County Probate Court Judge race. Rusu could win that race as well, as he has filed to run as an independent.
Kasich said Rusu’s appointment will begin July 8.
Susan Maruca, winner of the May Democratic primary for the Probate Judge seat, and Mary Ann Fabrizi, an independent, also will be running. The winner will be inaugurated in February.
Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras blasted the appointment.
“There is absolutely no reason why Visiting Judge R.R. Clunk could not and should not continue to preside over Probate Court until after the November general election,” Betras said in an emailed statement. “This is clearly a desperate, cynical, political ploy designed to give the appointee an advantage at the ballot box. Well, here’s a message for the governor and local Republicans who urged him to appoint Mr. Rusu: It won’t work.”
Betras also said the governor’s action is a slap in the face to voters who supported Maruca in the May 6 Democratic primary.
“I know the governor and some members of the GOP aren’t big fans of democracy. That’s why they constantly attempt to make it harder for people to vote, but this takes it to a new and distressing level,” Betras said in his statement.
Munroe fired back in a written e-mailed response Tuesday evening.
“When Belinky first resigned, Betras approached me lobbying for the Governor to appoint Maruca. He had no complaints when he thought Maruca had a chance for the appointment. He didn’t argue then for Judge Clunk to stay on the bench. But now that he didn’t get his way and Rob Rusu was chosen, he thinks it’s a desperate political ploy. As for the democratic process, it’s because of our efforts to attract independent candidates into the race that Mahoning County voters will have a real choice this fall, including Rob Rusu, who clearly has the best qualifications to be probate judge,” Munroe’s statement said.
Belinky resigned in March amid a criminal investigation. He pleaded guilty last month to a felony charge of tampering with records. He is set for sentencing on July 9.