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Decision time looms for upcoming elections



Published: Thu, February 7, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The congressman's spokesman won't rule anything out when it comes to his boss.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Will U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. run for re-election to Congress as an independent?

Traficant, who is facing racketeering and bribery charges, has several decisions to make by Feb. 21.

First, he has to decide in what congressional district he will run.

Traficant, a Poland Democrat, took out nominating petitions to run in the 17th District, which includes Trumbull County, the northeastern portion of Mahoning County, most of Portage County and a portion of Summit County. His other option would be the 12-county 6th District that includes Columbiana County and all but the northeastern portion of Mahoning. The other choice facing Traficant is whether to run as a Democrat or independent.

"I wouldn't rule anything out at this point," said Charles Straub, Traficant's spokesman, about an independent bid. "He hasn't indicated what he's going to do. I don't think it's the case. But I'm not closing that door completely because he's the type of member who could run as an independent and win. He is very independent."

Implications: If Traficant decided not to file as a Democrat in the 17th District, he would avoid a crowded primary field that will include state Sen. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown and state Rep. Anthony A. Latell Jr. of Girard. Also, U.S. Rep. Thomas C. Sawyer of Akron is considering a run for the 17th District seat but has not finalized his plans.

If he ran as an independent, Traficant would face the Democratic primary winner, the Republican nominee and any independent candidates in the November general election.

Also, if Traficant ran as a Democrat, the filing deadline is Feb. 21. If he ran as an independent, he would not have to file until May 6.

Consequences: Traficant has frequently criticized the Democratic Party and often votes with Republicans in the U.S. House. Last year, Traficant crossed party lines and voted for Republican Dennis Hastert for speaker of the House. That move resulted in Traficant's not receiving a committee assignment. He is the only rank-and-file congressman without a committee assignment.

Traficant could have received a committee assignment if he switched parties. But he has said he could not see himself leaving the Democratic Party, even though he is disappointed with its leaders.

"All indications are he'll run as Democrat in a Democratic primary for one of those two seats," 6th or 17th districts, Straub said.




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