Many in the new congressional district have never been represented by the congressman.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- U.S. Rep. Thomas C. Sawyer, an Akron Democrat, is running for re-election in the new 17th Congressional District, which could pit him against another incumbent congressman, U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr.
"I'm the incumbent in this district," Sawyer said today on Dan Ryan's radio show on WKBN-AM. "I believe I will be more than competitive in this race, but you don't take a race like this lightly."
Dan Lucas, Sawyer's chief of staff, faxed an announcement Sunday stating the eight-term congressman was running for the 17th District seat.
"He's in both feet forward, so away we go," Lucas said today.
Did research: Sawyer spent the past few weeks reviewing the voting precincts in the new 17th Congressional District to see if a re-election bid was favorable. Sawyer was also considering a statewide run as treasurer or auditor.
"It was not an easy choice; a lot of my friends were urging me to run for statewide office," Sawyer said.
A statewide redistricting plan, which takes effect next year, significantly redraws Ohio's 17th Congressional District. Sawyer said the Republican-controlled state Legislature purposely broke up the Mahoning Valley, Akron and Toledo to dilute the power of Democrats, which are strong in those communities.
"This is politics; I have never seen communities torn apart during the past 100 years as I've seen this year," Sawyer said. What Republicans have undertaken "is extraordinary and unique in the history of Ohio."
The changes: The 17th District includes Mahoning County, all but 300 voters in Columbiana County and Trumbull County except its western portion. The new district will include northeast Mahoning County, all but seven northern townships in Trumbull County, most of Portage County, and a portion of Summit County.
Sawyer's initial concern about running for the seat is that 58 percent of the district's residents live in Mahoning and Trumbull, two counties he has never represented. His current 14th Congressional District is being split between three new districts, with the largest portion going to the new 17th.
Sawyer joins state Rep. Anthony A. Latell Jr. of Girard as the only announced Democratic candidates in the 17th District race. John Keytack, a Warren Republican, plans to run.
Other Democrats considering running in the 17th include: Traficant, state Sen. Timothy Ryan of Warren, and Mahoning common pleas Judge Maureen Cronin.
6th District: Traficant could also run in the new 12-county 6th District, which stretches from Mahoning County to Scioto County, and challenge U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, a Lucasville Democrat. Traficant lives in the 6th District, but state law allows residents to run for any congressional district seat in Ohio they choose.
Traficant could also run as an independent candidate in either race. Traficant is on trial in federal court on charges including racketeering and bribery.
Sawyer has almost three times as much money in his federal campaign fund as Traficant -- $120,902 to $48,566.
Sawyer, who has spent more than 15 years serving in Congress with Traficant, had kind words for the indicted congressman during his radio appearance.
"Anyone who underestimates his talent or his intelligence does so at their own peril," Sawyer said. "He's outspoken, witty, and we've always treated each other as gentlemen."