Trumbull County Commissioner Joseph Angelo, convicted Monday of attempted gambling, says he wants to gauge public reaction before he decides whether to run for statewide office. We hope that Mr. Angelo's tongue was planted firmly in his cheek when he talked about a possible bid for the office of Ohio secretary of state.
Here's our advice to him: Stay where you are. The voters of Trumbull County chose to ignore the gambling issue; the people of Ohio aren't likely to.
We have long decried the absence of Mahoning Valley residents in statewide races, but we certainly weren't talking about someone with a criminal record when we urged area politicians to set their sights higher. The Mahoning Valley does not need to have its dirty laundry aired across Ohio, which would almost certainly happen if Angelo ran for secretary of state.
The statewide media, which jumps at any opportunity to paint this region as a nest of crime and corruption, would immediately create a link between the Trumbull County commissioner's criminal record and the 10 federal criminal charges that have been filed against U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. of Poland, D-17th.
Convicts: They would also undoubtedly go into detail about the 70 or so individuals from this region who have been convicted or have pleaded guilty to crimes relating to government corruption and organized crime, chanting a litany of the names of former public officials serving time behind bars, including former Mahoning County Sheriff Phil Chance, former county Prosecutor James Philomena and former county Commissioner Frank Lordi.
Like it or not, that has become the Valley's political legacy. Indeed, the FBI is now in Trumbull County investigating government corruption, and there are reports that indictments are imminent.
It's bad enough that the honest residents of this region have to live under this dark cloud, but they do not deserve to be held up to statewide ridicule by having an elected official who has pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor gambling charge running for an important state office.
Angelo continues to insist that he was doing nothing wrong in February 2000 when he was caught in a Niles home that was raided by police and officers from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation. Law enforcement agencies had monitored gambling at the house for 10 months before the raid.
However, the commissioner says that he decided to plead no contest because he wanted to "get this behind me and get on with my life" and because he was worried about what it would cost him and the city of Niles if the case went to trial. In a plea agreement worked out with the city prosecutor, Angelo pleaded no contest to the lesser charge of attempted gambling. He had initially been charged with gambling, which is a higher level misdemeanor.
Re-election: As to the effect his criminal record would have in an election, the commissioner pointed out that he was re-elected last year by 30,000 votes -- after the charge against him became public. The Vindicator did not endorse his re-election.
We would simply point out to Angelo that a disturbingly large number of Mahoning Valley voters seem to have a blind spot when it comes to criminal activity by public officials, but that is not a trait shared by most people in Ohio or the country.
A politician, like a gambler, should know how to quit while he's ahead.