MAHONING VALLEY UAW isn't sold on Sawyer

The Akron congressman earned the union's wrath by voting for NAFTA.
NORTH JACKSON -- Ohio United Auto Workers had little trouble endorsing U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland for the 6th Congressional District seat.
The UAW's Community Action Program council has long considered Strickland, a Lucasville Democrat, a friend of labor, and was so supportive of his re-election bid that the endorsement came more than a week before the filing deadline to run for the position, said Michael A. Aurilio, Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull UAW CAP Council chairman.
The endorsement for the 17th Congressional District seat is another story.
The CAP council, which represents more than 100,000 active and retired UAW members in Ohio, endorsed state Sen. Robert F. Hagan, a Youngstown Democrat, for the seat two weeks ago. But Hagan had a change of heart last week and withdrew from the race.
"Our main horse was Bob Hagan, and we're not as confident with the names coming out now," Aurilio said. "With Hagan, we had 100 percent labor support. With the others coming out, we have to look at them closely."
Sawyer: At the top of the inspection list is U.S. Rep. Thomas C. Sawyer, an Akron Democrat who is running for re-election. Sawyer earned the wrath of UAW leadership with his votes in favor of the North American Free Trade Agreement and fast-track trade authority for the president.
"It's not just NAFTA," Aurilio said. "We've also received concerns from our membership about calls not being returned from his office."
Sawyer understands that he is going to hear criticism of his pro-NAFTA vote from those in the Mahoning Valley, which has strong union ties.
"It was the hardest vote I ever had to cast," he said. "My community was split down the middle. If the world was in the condition it is in today, I don't know I would have come to the same decision."
The country has experienced problems with trade primarily because of lax enforcement that has led to problems such as illegal steel dumping, which has caused great harm to that industry, Sawyer said.
Others: The only other Democrat to announce his candidacy for the 17th District seat is state Rep. Anthony A. Latell Jr. of Girard, who has been endorsed in the past by the CAP council for other political positions.
Also considering a run for the 17th seat is U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. of Poland, the Democrat on trial in Cleveland, facing charges including racketeering and bribery. Traficant has received labor support in the past, but the UAW has made it clear that the congressman will not get its endorsement this year.
Interviews: It will likely be the first week of April before the CAP council endorses a candidate for the 17th seat, Aurilio said. The candidates will be interviewed by local UAW members, who will give the state CAP executive board its recommendation. The state board makes the final decision on who is endorsed.
Strickland was endorsed before the Feb. 21 filing deadline because the UAW is familiar with him and has supported his candidacy in the past, Aurilio said.
"Those we are secure with, we take care of first," he said.
Strickland said he was thrilled with the endorsement, calling it "critically important" to his re-election bid.

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