The Mahoning County GOP chairman is supporting a retired funeral director in the 6th Congressional District and a former congressman in the 17th.
By JEFF ORTEGA
and DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITERS
COLUMBUS -- State Rep. Ann Womer Benjamin is considering a run for the 17th Congressional District seat in the Republican primary.
Womer Benjamin, the Aurora Republican who's forced out of the Ohio House after this year because of term limits, has been considered as a running mate for Gov. Bob Taft this year, but Taft was to announce today that he'll run with Jennette Bradley, a Columbus city councilwoman.
Womer Benjamin said she's thought about running in the newly redrawn 17th District that includes northeast Mahoning County, all but seven northern townships in Trumbull County, most of Portage County and a portion of Summit County.
Womer Benjamin had been considered by some to be a leading contender for the No. 2 spot on the Republican ticket, but wouldn't comment on her political plans.
"I can't say anything. You'll find out tomorrow [Wednesday]," Womer Benjamin said Tuesday.
Show of support: Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery, who was in Youngstown for the Mahoning County Republican Party's Lincoln Day dinner Tuesday, had served as chairwoman for Womer Benjamin's exploratory committee for a since-abandoned secretary of state bid.
"I admire her intelligence and integrity," said Montgomery.
The filing deadline is Feb. 21.
Of a possible run for Congress, Womer Benjamin said she enjoyed "grass-roots legislating." U.S. Rep. Thomas Sawyer, an Akron Democrat, has announced plans to run in that congressional district, as has state Rep. Anthony A. Latell Jr., a Girard Democrat.
U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr., a Poland Democrat, is also looking at running for Congress, but his political future is uncertain because he is on trial in federal court on charges including bribery and racketeering.
The only announced Republican for the 17th District seat is John Keytack of Warren.
Considering a run: Mahoning GOP Chairman Clarence Smith said he expects former U.S. Rep. Lyle Williams of Lordstown to run for that position. Williams is also considering running for the 12-county 6th Congressional District that stretches along the eastern border of the state, and includes Columbiana County and all but the northeast portion of Mahoning.
Smith said he is supporting Frank Dawson of East Liverpool, a retired funeral home director who works as a toastmaster speaker, for the 6th District seat. Dawson could not be reached to comment.
Former Columbiana County Commissioner Michael Halleck of Salem and former U.S. Rep. Frank A. Cremeans of Gallipolis are considering running in the Republican primary for that seat.
On the Democratic side, U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland of Lucasville, a four-term incumbent, and Lou A. D'Apolito of Boardman, who unsuccessfully ran for the 17th District seat in 2000, are in the race. Mahoning County Commissioner Ed Reese, who met Monday with Strickland, is considering a bid for the seat.
Dave Johnson, former Columbiana County Republican chairman, says Dawson and Halleck are solid candidates. But, Johnson said, if no strong Republican candidates file, he could throw his support behind a solid Democratic or independent candidate from Columbiana or Mahoning counties for the 6th seat.
Cremeans beat Strickland in 1994 for Congress and lost to the Democrat in 1996. He failed to win his party's primary for the seat in 1998 and unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine in the 2000 GOP primary for Senate.
"I'm still looking at it, but I'm the only one that can beat Strickland," he said.