Traficant will probably run as a Democrat, but his spokesman said not to rule out an independent bid.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- State Sen. Robert F. Hagan has withdrawn as a congressional candidate.
In a prepared statement today, Hagan, a Youngstown Democrat, said: "I believe that this decision is in the best interest of my family and, just as importantly, in the best interest of the people I proudly represent in the Senate."
He said that the Mahoning Valley needed and deserved "honest, effective leadership in Washington and in Columbus. I believe I can best help our area achieve this goal by continuing my work in the Senate."
On Wednesday night Hagan told those close to him about his decision to withdraw. One of the people he contacted was Mahoning County Recorder Ronald V. Gerberry, an Austintown Democrat who was seeking Hagan's Senate seat.
After hearing Hagan's decision, Gerberry said this morning he would not run for state Senate. Gerberry had discussions today with Senate Democratic officials and local labor leaders who asked him to withdraw. He said that he was disappointed to be stepping aside but that he felt a divisive primary would hurt the Democratic Party. Gerberry plans to remain county recorder and not seek another office this year.
Reasons for decision: Sources close to Hagan said his decision was based primarily on indications by U.S. Rep. Thomas C. Sawyer that he plans to run for the 17th District and the results of a poll that showed Sawyer, an Akron Democrat, had numbers in Mahoning and Trumbull counties similar to those of Hagan and U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr., another possible candidate.
Although Hagan received the endorsement of the executive board of the Ohio State United Auto Workers Community Action Program, a few local UAW officials have told The Vindicator that they were not motivated to work for his campaign.
When the initial redistricting lines of the 17th District became known, Hagan said he did not see the seat as a winnable one. After taking another look at the new district and receiving the urging of Warren Davis, UAW Region 2 director, Hagan opted to enter the race.
Dan Lucas, Sawyer's chief of staff, could not be reached to comment this morning on Hagan's decision. Lucas said Wednesday that Sawyer had not made a decision about running for the 17th District but that the congressman is carefully reviewing his options.
The new 17th District includes the northeast portion of Mahoning County, all but seven northern townships in Trumbull County, most of Portage County and a portion of Summit County, including four of Akron's 10 wards. Trumbull and Mahoning make up 58 percent of the residents in the congressional district.
State Rep. Anthony A. Latell Jr., a Girard Democrat, is the only candidate to file his nominating petitions for the seat.
Still to decide: Traficant, a Poland Democrat, has not announced which congressional district seat he will seek. He took out nominating petitions to run in the 17th, but could also seek the 6th District post.
Also undetermined is whether Traficant, who is facing racketeering and bribery charges, will run as a Democrat or an independent.
"I wouldn't rule anything out at this point," said Charles Straub, Traficant's spokesman, about an independent bid. "All indications are he'll run as Democrat in a Democratic primary for one of those two seats," 6th or 17th districts, Straub said. But Straub wouldn't close the door completely to an independent bid by Traficant, saying "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 primary. As an independent candidate, Traficant would face the Democratic primary winner, the Republican nominee and any other 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.
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.