17TH DISTRICT RACE Reps advise: One of you quit
Local state House members expect one of the leading Valley candidates to be pressured into withdrawing.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
AUSTINTOWN -- If either state Rep. Anthony A. Latell Jr. or state Sen. Timothy J. Ryan has a shot at capturing the 17th Congressional District seat, one of them has to get out of the race, according to their fellow state legislators from the Mahoning Valley.
"With the current lay of the land, there's no way either will win," said state Rep. Sylvester D. Patton Jr., a Youngstown Democrat. "They're going to cancel each other out. Without a doubt, if nothing changes, there is no question we will not have anyone from the Valley representing us in Congress."
Both Latell and Ryan have said they intend to stay in the race.
Six candidates: Ryan, of Niles, and Latell, of Girard, are among six Valley candidates running in the May 7 Democratic primary for the 17th District seat. The four other Valley candidates have never held public office. The only non-Valley candidate in the Democratic race is U.S. Rep. Thomas C. Sawyer of Akron, who is seeking his ninth term in Congress.
"I was hoping we'd have one candidate from Mahoning and Trumbull," said state Rep. Kenneth Carano, an Austintown Democrat. "The two could easily split the vote, and the present congressman would retain his seat."
Carano and state Rep. John Boccieri, a New Middletown Democrat, said the Valley's state Legislature delegation unsuccessfully tried to convince Ryan and Latell that only one of them should be in the race.
"Any time you have more than one candidate going against an incumbent, it splits the vote and helps the incumbent," Boccieri said.
Pressure to quit: Carano said he expects pressure to build during the coming weeks for either Latell or Ryan to pull out of the race depending on the amount of support each candidate receives.
"For some reason, everyone wants to be congressman," added Patton. "Sometimes, we need to check our egos at the door."
Latell has been outspoken about Ryan's entering the race, saying the state senator is a virtual political novice with only 14 months of elected experience and has accomplished nothing during that time.
Ryan said that the Valley needs a fresh face with fresh ideas working for them in Washington, D.C. and that the divisive politics practiced here for the past 25 years have hurt the Valley.
Latell gave up his state House seat to run for Congress, while Ryan is running from a safe seat. Ryan's term in the Senate does not expire until the end of 2004.
Other candidates: The other Democratic candidates in the race are Randy Walter of Canfield, Maridee L. Costanzo of Warren, Bryan Taafe of Austintown and Joe Louis Teague of Youngstown.
The Democratic primary winner will face state Rep. Ann Womer Benjamin, an Aurora Republican, in the November general election. Womer Benjamin was one of two Republicans to file in the 17th District. John Keytack of Warren withdrew Friday from the race and is supporting her candidacy.
U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant, a Poland Democrat, says he will file to run as an independent candidate. Traficant said he does not have time to campaign for the Democratic primary because of his ongoing federal trial on charges including racketeering and bribery.
The 17th District's new boundaries, beginning next year, will include northeast Mahoning County, all but seven northern townships in Trumbull County, most of Portage County, and a portion of Summit County.