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17TH DISTRICT Ryan steps up election campaign



Published: Tue, August 20, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Democratic candidate for the 17th Congressional District seat made an appearance at numerous festivals over the weekend.

By JEFF ORTEGA

and DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITERS

NILES -- After taking it somewhat easy since his stunning victory in the May primary, Timothy J. Ryan, the Democratic nominee for the 17th Congressional District seat, is shifting his election campaign into high gear.

"We're starting to step it up," said Ryan of Niles, who was at Waddell Park in his hometown Monday, hosting a luncheon for seniors to discuss health issues.

Until recently, a large majority of the handful of public appearances Ryan made were to pick up union endorsements.

But Ryan attended numerous festivals over the weekend, and he and volunteers are going door-to-door in the congressional district drumming up support for his candidacy. He also expects to hold additional issues luncheons.

Ryan said people should expect to see him in a few weeks standing on street corners with signs waving at traffic. Some political experts scoffed at that political tactic during the primary campaign, but it turned out to be an effective tool for the Democrat.

The Democrat admits Ann Womer Benjamin of Aurora, his Republican opponent, has been much more active than he has since the primary, where she ran unopposed.

Womer Benjamin has held numerous fund-raisers, run radio and television advertising, held almost weekly press conferences, including several with major political officeholders and has issued several press releases.

"We've been campaigning hard everywhere in the district," said David All, Womer Benjamin's campaign manager. "[Ryan] sees we've been out working, and we'll continue to work harder than he does."

Womer Benjamin and her supporters have knocked on 5,000 doors in Trumbull and Portage counties, All said.

The 17th District will include, beginning next year, portions of Mahoning, Trumbull, Portage and Summit counties. The old district included Mahoning, Columbiana and portions of Trumbull counties.

Since 2001, Ryan has served as a state senator representing Trumbull County. Womer Benjamin has represented most of Portage County in the Ohio House for nearly eight years.

Ryan, who won the Democratic primary despite faring poorly in Portage, issued a bold statement Monday saying he expects to beat Womer Benjamin on her home turf.

"If we win Portage, we should have no trouble winning the election," Ryan said. "We're going to meet with people at bars and restaurants in Portage County, and we'll be at the county fair. We've had a good reaction."

Hometown support

All said Portage County residents know Womer Benjamin best and are expected to strongly support her Nov. 5.

"We haven't seen or heard Mr. Ryan in Portage County," All said.

There are also two independent candidates in the race: former U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant of Poland, who is serving an eight-year sentence in a federal prison in Pennsylvania, and former labor leader Warren Davis of Akron.

Traficant, who was expelled from the House of Representatives in July for ethics violations after being convicted on federal bribery, racketeering and corruption charges, cannot make any public appearances or do any campaigning.

Davis has been relatively quiet since June when the United Auto Workers, his union for 48 years, including 19 years as a regional director, withdrew its endorsement of him and eliminated his district.

Governor's decision upheld

Meanwhile, a federal court has upheld Gov. Bob Taft's decision not to call a special election to fill the remaining months of Traficant's two-year term in the old 17th district.

U.S. District Judge Edmund A. Sargus Jr. declined Monday to issue a court order directing the state to call an election.

Sargus agreed that a special election would be confusing and that there's a possibility the person elected wouldn't have a chance to vote in the remaining 41/2 months left on the unexpired term.

The governor had also cited the potential $800,000 cost to hold both a special primary and special general election in making his decision against a special election. But Judge Sargus said cost was not an issue. Rather, it is a matter of protecting the integrity of the elections process, he said.

The judge mentioned the potential difficulty of securing voting locations, the declining interest among voters generally when there are few items on a ballot and the possibility that a person seated for the remaining months might never cast a vote.

The U.S. House recessed in late July and was scheduled to return Sept. 4 and remain in session until early October. Congress is expected to hold a lame-duck session after the Nov. 5 general election, according to Congressional Quarterly.

Raymond Vasvari, legal director of the ACLU of Ohio, which filed the suit, plans to appeal the decision to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.




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