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Will Traficant do the right thing for the 17th District?



Published: Sun, April 14, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Mr. Traficant, have you no shame?

A jury of 10 women and two men has found you guilty of 10 federal criminal charges, which could be condensed into one sentence that describes your behavior as a member of an exclusive political body, the United States Congress: You used your public position for personal gain, thereby violating the trust your constituents in the Mahoning Valley placed in you.

Yet you refuse to do the honorable thing and resign.

By continuing to blather about the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department having a vendetta against James A. Traficant Jr., and by your demeaning and unsubstantiated allegations of unfairness against U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells, you not only bring shame to the legislative body in which you have served since 1985, but you bring shame to the region you claim to love so dearly.

Do the right thing, congressman, and step down. Since you intend to appeal last Thursday's federal court decision, it is clear that you will not have the time to devote to your congressional duties. Indeed, for the past 10 weeks, the 17th District has been without true representation.

Yes, you had every right to defend yourself against the charges brought by the Justice Department, but while you were trying to persuade the jury of your innocence and were trying to sell them on the fanciful idea that you've been on the government's Most Wanted list, the Mahoning Valley was without its congressman.

Hostage: We do not believe that our community should be held hostage to your legal travails. Step down now and let Gov. Bob Taft decide whether to call a special election to fill the vacancy until the end of the year.

On Friday, you issued a statement that shows how self-centered you've become. You said, "I have no plans to resign, and I intend to run as an independent in November for the 17th District of Ohio. I will not allow the government to get rid of Jim Traficant without a fight."

You did fight -- and you lost in spectacular fashion. The government was not your undoing -- your own pettiness and greed were.

But this should no longer be about you, congressman. It's about what's best for the Mahoning Valley. Having a disgraced absentee representative isn't what your constituents need.

As for who would replace you, should the governor choose not to call a special election, we have no doubt that two of your congressional colleagues who are courting the voters of the Mahoning Valley as a result of redistricting would be more than willing to ensure that the 17th District was not without an advocate.

U.S. Reps. Tom Sawyer, D-Akron, and Ted Strickland, D-Lucasville, will be running in districts this year that include parts of the region -- Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties. They have paid several visits to the area, have met with local politicians and business and community leaders, have appointed local residents to their campaign committees, and have made it clear that they intend to represent the Valley as loyally and effectively as they have their hometowns.

We believe that giving Sawyer and Strickland the opportunity to step in and fill the void that would be created by your resignation would test their sincerity. We understand that they now owe their allegiances to their current constituents, but the Democratic primary election is less than a month away and the Valley's voters are still not sure about these two individuals.

You, Mr. Traficant, could be instrumental in forcing Sawyer and Strickland to prove their mettle.

Your resignation would not only be viewed as the ultimate sacrifice by a politician who has enjoyed unprecedented support and an unequaled string of election victories, but it would show that you truly regret the damage you have done to the Mahoning Valley.

Mr. Traficant, have some shame.




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