Former Congressman Wayne Hays Faces Local Party Split
ST. CLAIRSVILLE, Ohio (AP) _ A decade after Wayne L. Hays resigned from Congress in the wake of a sex scandal, he’s again at the center of controversy - this time as the leader of the Belmont County Democratic Party.
His chief opponent says the party in the eastern Ohio county is split and someone other than Hays is needed to heal it.
″What we need is some energetic fence-mending in the party, and I do not believe that Wayne can mend those fences,″ said County Treasurer Joseph Pappano. ″I don’t believe I could mend those fences, but surely we can find someone in this big county that is capable of doing that.″
Hays became county Democratic chairman six years ago, four years after he resigned his chairmanship of the powerful House Administration Committee following Elizabeth Ray’s claim that she had been on his payroll but had performed no office duties. Hays admitted having a sexual relationship with the woman but denied misusing public funds.
The party split broke into the open after primary elections last Tuesday, when Pappano defeated incumbent Harold Hall in a race for county auditor. Hays had supported Hall.
So far, Pappano is the only opponent of Hays to speak publicly, but the anti-Hays coalition reportedly includes two county commissioners and a state representative, The Columbus Dispatch reported Sunday.
The party leadership could be decided May 28, when a meeting to elect leaders for the next two years is tentatively scheduled.
Hays denied reports that most new precinct committee members elected last Tuesday oppose him.
″Over half the new ones are people who are favorable to me, about 65 percent, frankly,″ he said.
Hays said Democrats have no reason to oust him ″because we have every office in the county except one judgeship which we haven’t had for about 30 years.″