The Democratic candidate will participate in any debate sponsored by an independent entity.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The drumbeat of Republican Ann Womer Benjamin complaining about her Democratic opponent's unwillingness to participate in 15 congressional debates is now silenced.
Womer Benjamin of Aurora has repeatedly complained that Democrat Timothy J. Ryan of Niles had backed away from earlier statements that he would participate in 15 debates of the 17th Congressional District candidates.
Patrick Lowry, Ryan's campaign spokesman, said last week that the Democratic candidate would debate and has committed to four of them, but could not guarantee he would participate in 15 events.
David All, Womer Benjamin's campaign spokesman, said Lowry called him Wednesday and said Ryan would participate in any debate sponsored by an independent entity.
"It took Tim a while to respond, but it appears he now will give the voters of the 17th Congressional District an opportunity to hear where all the candidates are on the issues," Womer Benjamin said.
Womer Benjamin sent a letter July 29 to Ryan and the two independents in the race -- former congressman James A. Traficant Jr. of Poland at the Allenwood Federal Correctional Institution in White Deer, Pa., and former labor leader Warren Davis of Akron -- seeking to arrange a series of debates.
Womer Benjamin sent Ryan another request three days later. She then had a press conference, used radio advertisements and sent another letter to Ryan asking for a response.
But it was actually Davis who first requested the other candidates participate in at least 15 debates after a June 14 forum in Kent. Davis also was the first candidate to contact the others about debating, in a July 8 letter to Ryan and Womer Benjamin.
At the conclusion of the June 14 forum, Ryan and Womer Benjamin said they would attend a series of debates if the events could be scheduled.
Traficant, a federal prisoner serving an eight-year sentence for bribery and racketeering, would not be permitted to attend any debate in person. Also, Traficant is allowed to make only five hours a month worth of collect calls and is not permitted to conduct any business while in federal prison.