Mason, 52, announced in Oct that he will not seek a fourth four-year term.
He has not groomed a successor. Nor has he mumbled a word on whom he supports, a strategy that has heightened mystery around his upcoming departure from office.
Under the leadership of party chairman Stuart Garson, an area trial attorney, 486 of the 630 executive committee members met Wed. evening at the Cleveland Convention Center to vote on endorsements for the March 6 Democratic primary for state representative, county prosecutor, and contested races for judge of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, juvenile court, and Ohio Eighth District Court of Appeals.
The filing deadline for the offices was Dec. 7.
Though he failed to win the party endorsement for county prosecutor, James McDonnell, the brother of longtime Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge Nancy McDonnell and a former North Royalton city prosecutor, got the most votes at 226.
Former Cleveland Law Director Subodh Chandra, who served in the role under former Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell, trailed in second place with 101 votes, and Cleveland Ward 13 Councilman Kevin Kelley came in third with 85 votes.
Chandra said in his speech to the Executive Committee that he would obey the law and work to bring "Blacks and Whites together."
Tim McGinty, a former common pleas court judge who resigned from the bench in Oct. to run for county prosecutor, came in fourth with only 33 votes, followed by Robert Triozzi, a former Cleveland Municipal Court judge and prior law director for Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson who got only 24 votes, even with the mayor's support via a letter to members of the Executive Committee.
Stephanie Hall, a University Circle police, former assistant county prosecutor, and prior common pleas court foreclosure magistrate, made an unexpected entrance into the race and got six votes, finishing in sixth place. She is the only Black in the race.
A former assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor before he became judge whose decisions and orders have been repeatedly overturned on appeal for jailing Blacks illegally and otherwise harassing them, and an admitted source to the Cleveland Plain Dealer Newspaper who often publicly criticized his judicial colleagues, McGinty is probably the most colorful candidate.
He took to the stage at the gathering and startled people after he told party members that he should be endorsed because had he been the county prosecutor at the time he would have prosecuted serial killer Anthony Sowell rather than to have release him from custody in 2008 to kill the last six of his 11 Black female victims.
Sowell, who was convicted this summer of the murders and a host of other crimes, awaits the death penalty, though his convictions are on appeal.
"McGinty is prejudice and so is Triozzi, and I believe that that is why members of the Executive Committee did not really support either of them," said an executive committee member under condition of anonymity.
In other races incumbent state representatives Armond Budish (D-8), Barbara Boyd (D-9), Bill Patmon (D-10), Sandra Williams (D-11), John Barnes Jr. (D-12), Nickie Antonio (D-13), and Mike Foley (D-14) were endorsed.
Williams, Boyd, and Budish drew challengers in the Democratic primary and Budish, if he wins the Democratic primary as expected, and Foley, will face a Republican challenger in next year's Nov. general election.
For the common pleas bench Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas incumbent judges Shirley Strickland Saffold and John Sutula received endorsements for six-year terms and Alison Nelson Floyd, also an incumbent, was endorsed for juvenile court. All three face challengers in the primary and Strickland Saffold, if she wins there, faces Republican Cathryn Ensign for the Nov. general election.
Cassandra Collier- Williams was endorsed to face popular Republican Common Pleas Court Judge Joan Synenburg, and the county Democratic party chose Attorney Dean Van Dress to go up against the controversial Kathleen Sutula, a Republican too, and a judge on the common pleas bench since 1991 whose home was once shot up with bullets by a disgruntled criminal who expected a lighter sentence from the "hangin judge."
Collier- Williams is Black, and a well respected criminal defense lawyer who worked at one time in the law office of Cleveland NAACP President George Forbes, a prominent attorney and general counsel for the Call and Post Newspaper, Ohio's Black press with distributions in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati.
Though endorsed by the Plain Dealer, she lost a race for common pleas judge last year.
Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael Jackson got the Democratic endorsement in the race to replace Democratic retiring common pleas judge Ron Suster. Also in that race is Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Emanuella Groves, among other Democratic contenders. The winner will face Republican Marilyn Cassidy, a Cleveland Municipal Court judge.
Cullen Sweeney got the endorsement in the race to replace Republican Robert McClelland, who is also retiring from the common pleas bench.
The county Democratic party selected Steven Gall to take on Republican Common Pleas Court Judge Annette Butler, a former federal prosecutor and a one time unsuccessful candidate for county prosecutor against Mason whom Gov. John Kasich appointed last month to the judicial seat that McGinty vacated to run for county prosecutor.
Janet Burney, who is Black and a previous juvenile court judge who lost a Democratic primary in 2004 to now Juvenile Court Judge Kristen Sweeney by less that 2 percent of the vote, also sought the party's endorsement in the race against Butler, though Gall was chosen.
Butler and Saffold are two of three Black judges in the 34 member general division of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, with the third being Judge Lance Mason, a former state senator, and protege of greater Cleveland's Old Black Political Guard.
Steven Terry, who is Black, was a Cuyahoga County common pleas court judge until his convictions on corruption related charges earlier this year that netted a hefty fine and six-year prison sentence from Federal District Court Judge Sara Lioi. Kasich appointed Brecksville Republican Pamela Barker to replace Terry, and Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Colleen Ann Reali got the Democratic endorsement for that race over Keith Belkin.
Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge Daniel Gaul, just off of a six month suspension by the Ohio Supreme Court last year that was stayed pending good behavior, got the Democratic endorsement to face Republican candidate Edel Passalacqua in Nov. But county juvenile court judge Joe Russo lost the the endorsement for the seat he holds to Assistant County Prosecutor Frankie Goldberg, a lieutenant of Mason's, and a popular University Heights City Council member.
Also vying in that race in the Democratic primary is Attorney William McGinty.
Russo put his Democratic seat at risk after pleading guilty to disorderly conduct following a drunken escapade with his then girlfriend. And last Feb. the Ohio Supreme Court suspended his law license for a year but stayed the suspension if he completes an alcohol recovery program and stays out of trouble.
The Ohio Eighth District Court of Appeals will lose Democratic judges Colleen Conway Cooney and James Sweeney to retirement.
Endorsed for the Democratic primary for the seat held by Conway Cooney was Eileen T. Gallagher, a common pleas court judge, and for the appellate seat that Sweeney is retiring from, the endorsement went to Parma Municipal Court Judge Timothy Gilligan. He faces Juvenile Court Judge Peter Sikora, former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Tim McCormack, Erin O'Toolel and Lori Dyke as other Democratic primary contenders, and Gallagher will battle Joseph Compoli for the primary, though Compoli did not attend Wednesday's endorsement session.
Cuyahoga County, which includes the predominantly Black major metropolitan city of Cleveland, is Ohio's largest with some 1.2 million people. It has a Black population at roughly 31 percent.