The lack of a UAW endorsement probably hurts Anthony Latell the most, the CAP Council chairman said.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
NORTH JACKSON -- The United Auto Workers union, which represents one of the largest labor voting blocs in the state, is not getting involved in the 17th Congressional District race.
The UAW's Community Action Program Council jumped into the 17th race in January, weeks before the filing deadline, with an endorsement of state Sen. Robert F. Hagan, a Youngstown Democrat. Two weeks later, Hagan changed his mind and withdrew from the congressional race.
"Once Hagan chose to bow out, we didn't see anybody else on the same caliber," said Michael A. Aurilio, chairman of the Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull UAW CAP Council. "We're not saying they're not qualified. We're just not as enthused by them as we were with Hagan."
The CAP Council represents more than 100,000 active and retired Ohio UAW members, including more than 12,000 in the Mahoning Valley.
Seven candidates: No interviews were done with any of the six Democratic candidates or state Rep. Ann Womer Benjamin, the lone Republican candidate, in the 17th District race, Aurilio said.
The redrawn 17th Congressional District, which takes effect next year, includes portions of Mahoning, Trumbull, Portage and Summit counties.
The lack of an endorsement probably hurts state Rep. Anthony A. Latell Jr., a Girard Democrat, the most, Aurilio said.
"If he got it, it would have made Timmy take pause," he said.
Timmy is state Sen. Tim Ryan of Niles, who had UAW Local 1112 President Jim Graham as his campaign manager when he ran for state Senate in 2000.
Aurilio expects U.S. Rep. Thomas C. Sawyer of Akron to capture the Democratic primary in May simply because Ryan, Latell and the three other Valley candidates do not have the money to compete with an incumbent congressman.
The UAW has cast a critical eye toward Sawyer over the years because of his votes in favor of the North American Free Trade Agreement and fast-track trade authority for the president.
"Except for one or two votes, Sawyer hasn't been that bad of a congressman," Aurilio said. "He hasn't been that great of a congressman, either."
After primary: The UAW may reconsider its decision not to endorse a candidate in the district after the primary, Aurilio said.
Asked who he thinks will win the November general election, Aurilio said that if indicted U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr., a Poland Democrat, carries through with plans to run as an independent, the advantage goes to state Rep. Ann Womer Benjamin, an Aurora Republican.
Aurilio said Womer Benjamin has a "fair labor record, nothing to write home about." But she is willing to listen to the concerns of labor, he said.
Hagan for Sawyer: In other 17th District endorsement news, Latell blasted Hagan for the state senator's announcement that he is supporting Sawyer.
"I find it hard to believe that Mr. Hagan would support someone that the labor movement dislikes intensely," Latell said. "I also find it incredulous that he wouldn't want to endorse a candidate like me who has grown up in the labor movement."
Latell likened Hagan's saying that Sawyer made a mistake when he voted for NAFTA and that he wouldn't do anything like it again to saying, "I'm sorry I killed you. I'll never do it again."