Youngstown's mayor says he will continue working with the area's congressman.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Youngstown Mayor George M. McKelvey isn't ruling out a congressional run if U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. is removed from office.
But he said a Traficant-McKelvey race for Congress would never happen.
"If he was to leave office, that's another bridge to cross," McKelvey said. "But right now, he's there, and I'm going to be working closely with him. I'm not now, nor will I ever, run against Congressman Jim Traficant."
McKelvey, who is running for re-election as mayor this year, is considered one of the early favorites to succeed Traficant if the nine-term congressman, who is facing a 10-count federal indictment, leaves the U.S. House.
Traficant, of Poland, D-17th, said he has no plans to resign before his Feb. 4, 2002, trial.
Noticed a change: Since Traficant's May 4 indictment, McKelvey said he has noticed somewhat of a change in the congressman's dealings with him.
"I can sense that he's a little more guarded because, like all public officials, he's always looking over his shoulder at potential opponents," McKelvey said. "But hopefully [this statement] will strengthen our relationship."
Despite Traficant's indictment, McKelvey said he will continue to work with the congressman on issues that will benefit the city, including seeking a federal empowerment zone designation for Youngstown and Warren.
"Those who have a fierce hatred and dislike of Congressman Traficant might say to me, 'Mayor, I'm mad at you for working with him,'" McKelvey said. "That's the most absurd thing I've ever heard. What do I do? Stop speaking to our sitting congressman until his trial? I have to put my personal feelings aside, and I have to put my political feelings aside. I have to put my public service first and foremost."
Looking ahead: McKelvey said his immediate political future includes a re-election bid Nov. 6. McKelvey faces the challenge of Percy Squire, an independent candidate who changed his residency from Columbus to Youngstown a few months ago. Squire's wife, Carol, is a Franklin County juvenile court judge with residency in Columbus.
McKelvey would not comment on the Mahoning County Board of Elections' recent decision to certify Squire's nominating petitions even though there is a question as to his residency.
The board certified Squire's petitions Friday after reviewing them along with the city charter and Squire's registration records, said Mark E. Munroe, board chairman. The board has not received any information or challenges to the validity of Squire's petitions, Munroe said.
If McKelvey were to win re-election in November, he would not be permitted to seek a third four-year term under the city's term limits law. Although he doesn't want to project 4 1/2 years into his future, McKelvey said he sees himself getting out of politics then and returning to education.
McKelvey, who spent 15 years as a Youngstown teacher and administrator, wants to become a special-education teacher, principal or superintendent.