The party officials do agree that the Valley would be better served without James A. Traficant Jr. in Congress.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
BAZETTA -- Two Ohio political heavyweights have opposing opinions of Gov. Bob Taft's effectiveness and his chances for re-election.
David Leland, Ohio Democratic Party chairman, attending the Trumbull County Democratic picnic Wednesday in Bazetta, and Ohio House Majority Whip James Trakas, keynote speaker at a Mahoning County Young Republicans barbecue in Boardman, also don't agree on many other political issues.
On same track: But there is one issue they can agree on: Indicted U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. of Poland, D-17th, is not the best representative for the Mahoning Valley in Congress.
"My complaint with Traficant isn't about his recent troubles, but his continuous support of Republican programs that are leading to job losses and the raiding of Social Security," Leland said.
"He's not representing his district. The people here voted for a Democrat and he's not voting with Democrats on critical issues. I would like to see a Democrat in the district who votes along Democratic philosophies."
Trakas, a Cleveland Republican, said state GOP officials are closely watching the Valley and believe Traficant, a nine-term congressman who is facing a 10-count federal indictment, is beatable.
"For the first time in 20 years, Republicans see opportunities in this district," Trakas said. "I think this district is ripe for a change. You want an effective congressman who has not been clouded and that's not what's happening here."
Trakas also said those concerned that the state's Republican leadership is planning to carve up the 17th District have little to worry about.
"The Republican majority in Columbus wants to preserve a Mahoning Valley seat," Trakas said. "There's been talk of butchering the 17th District, but I don't think that's going to happen."
About Taft: Regarding Taft's re-election next year, Trakas said the governor will face a stiff challenge from Democrat Tim Hagan but will come out on the winning end.
Leland said he can think of at least six or seven Democrats who could beat Taft for governor. Hagan was tentatively scheduled to attend the picnic, but opted to meet with U.S. House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt in Cleveland.
The two also differ on allowing officeholders such as Attorney General Betty Montgomery and Auditor Jim Petro to run for another state office because they cannot seek re-election to their current posts under the term limit law.
"Bouncing from one spot to another violates the spirit of the term limits law," Leland said about the officeholders seeking to switch jobs, who all happen to be Republicans.
"The Republicans doing that are more interested in preserving their public paychecks than they are in public service. It's terrible that they're violating the tenor and spirit of term limits by doing it. They feel they can go from one job to the other. People will see it as a personal power grab."
Trakas said the Republican officeholders seeking to switch positions are high-caliber officials who will be elected over Democrats because they have shown they are capable of doing fine jobs.
About 400 people attended the Democratic picnic at Bob Maffit's Meadows near the Trumbull County Fairgrounds. There were about 50 people at the Young Republicans barbecue in the back yard of Sam Moffie, a Boardman Township trustee candidate.