The Traficant case didn't generate as much interest as the Gary Condit case did in Washington.
By MARALINE KUBIK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
CANFIELD -- When U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland of Lucasville, D-6th, arrived for lunch with the Rotary Club, he had a bone to pick.
Before he arrived in Canfield, some constituents of the 17th Congressional District, represented by James A. Traficant Jr., told Strickland they were appalled that their congressman had been found guilty during his federal racketeering trial.
They weren't upset because they thought Traficant was innocent, Strickland said, but because they didn't think he'd done anything all of the other representatives hadn't done.
"I deeply resent that," Strickland said here Friday. "Most of the representatives I know are dedicated, hard-working and committed to their constituents."
Surprised: Most members of Congress were disturbed by the Traficant fiasco, he said. When the verdict was announced, Strickland said he and many others on Capitol Hill were surprised that Traficant had been found guilty on all 10 charges.
Based on Traficant's history of beating charges and his ability to raise questions in the minds of jurors, Strickland said some representatives expected a hung jury.
"I didn't witness any joy when the verdict was announced," he said. "People were sad that such an occurrence could take place."
Although everyone seemed interested in the Traficant case, he added, it didn't generate as much interest as the Gary Condit case.
Condit, California Democrat, was the focus of the mysterious disappearance of Chandra Levy, a 24-year-old intern with whom he'd been having an affair.
Strickland said being in Congress requires an extraordinary amount of energy, time and dedication to do the job well.
Missing votes: Saying he couldn't speak for Traficant, Strickland said that were he in a similar situation, he doesn't think he'd be able to fulfill his obligations to his constituents.
"As far as I know, Traficant hasn't been there to cast his vote in quite a while," he added.
Strickland said he and Traficant had a "cordial" relationship during Strickland's first term in office, 1993-94, "but I had no meaningful interaction with him."
In more recent years, Strickland said, Traficant usually sat on the Republican side of the house.
Does he believe Traficant should step down?
"Only he can decide that," Strickland said. "Only Traficant knows if he is guilty or innocent. If he is guilty, then it's appropriate for him to step down. But, if he truly believes that he is innocent and he hasn't broken any laws, then he has the right to appeal. If the charges stand after the appeal, it's not appropriate for him to remain in office."
On a lighter note, Strickland joked with club members after they presented him with a red polo shirt emblazoned with the Rotary logo.
"What do you want for this?" he chuckled.