Five of the six Democratic congressional candidates gave their views and positions during a forum today.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
NILES -- Democratic candidates running in the May 7 primary for the 17th Congressional District do not agree on how to revitalize the Mahoning Valley, but all say it's something they will focus on if elected.
Five of the six Democratic candidates -- U.S. Rep. Thomas C. Sawyer of Akron, state Sen. Timothy Ryan of Niles, state Rep. Anthony A. Latell Jr. of Girard, Atty. Maridee Costanzo of Warren and Joe Louis Teague of Youngstown -- attended a forum today at McMenamy's on U.S. Route 422, sponsored by the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber. Bryan Taafe of Austintown did not attend.
"In this election, we're going to choose who will represent us in Washington for the next two years, but it is more than that," said Sawyer, who emphasized his 26 years of legislative experience, including more than 15 years in Congress. "It's about deciding our future. ... The challenges we face are too large for on-the-job training and divisive politics. I believe we can do better."
Latell said his many years of experience on the county and state level will enable him to make an impact in Congress immediately. Like Sawyer, he says the congressional position is too important to be left to someone who has little to no government experience.
"I want to bring my years of experience to Washington on your behalf," Latell told the audience of about 100.
Ryan, who has 16 months of elected political experience, said the Valley's longtime political leaders have failed the area, and it's time for a change.
"It's time for some outside-the-box thinking and I want that opportunity," Ryan said. "We've suffered too long and now here's our chance. ... I want to take the lead and bring this community back to where it was."
Costanzo, a Warren defense attorney and political newcomer, said the Valley needs vigorous leadership in Washington, D.C.
"I've been an aggressive advocate for a decade and there's no reason for me not to continue to be an advocate for this district," she said. "I'm not a career politician and that's what sets me apart."
Teague, a retired laborer who has twice unsuccessfully run for Youngstown mayor, said if elected, he would work to bring jobs back to the area.
State Rep. Ann Womer Benjamin of Aurora, the Republican nominee for the 17th District, attended the forum today. While not saying who she thought was the best speaker at the forum, Womer Benjamin said Sawyer was very focused and did well. She expects to face Sawyer, Ryan or Latell during the November general election.
The candidates were asked about their No. 1 economic development priority for the Valley if elected. Their answers were:
UCostanzo: Opening Medicare and Medicaid facilities in the area.
URyan: Opening more business incubators in the area and building and improving quality-of-life facilities such as the Warren Riverwalk and Robins Theater.
ULatell: The overall economic development of the district with attention given to areas identified by an economic development specialist he would hire.
USawyer: Working with community leaders to identify projects that need funding and attention, with particular focus on higher education and job creation.
UTeague: A medical facility for laid-off plant workers, who cannot afford health care coverage.