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Congressional races top the election filings list



Published: Sat, February 23, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



It has long been the complaint of state government that the Mahoning Valley does not speak with one voice when it comes to seeking public dollars for capital projects. Governor after governor has contended that the failure to work as one has cost the region dearly.

Now, this apparent dysfunction has seeped into politics. The emergence of six potential candidates from Trumbull and Mahoning counties in the May Democratic primary for the 17th District congressional seat must have made U.S. Rep. Tom Sawyer, D-14th, smile.

Why? Because Sawyer is a Democrat from Akron who, as a result of the congressional district boundaries being redrawn by the Republican controlled General Assembly, finds himself in the 17th District. A virtual unknown in Trumbull and Mahoning counties, Sawyer would have been a long shot to win the Democratic nomination had there been only one strong candidate from this area.

That's because the 17th District encompasses most of Trumbull, the northern half of Mahoning, a portion of Portage and a piece of Summit, including several wards in the city of Akron. Sawyer's base is Akron and Portage, but that area accounts for 42 percent of the district's predominantly Democratic population.

The chances of a Republican winning the 17th are slim to none, which means that the Democratic nominee will have the inside track in the November general election -- even with Congressman James A. Traficant Jr., D-Poland, who has represented the current 17th District since 1985, running as an independent.

Indeed, Traficant's home is located in the new 6th Congressional District, which takes in the southern half of Mahoning County, all of Columbiana County and 10 other counties along the Ohio River and the state's southern border.

However, a candidate for Congress does not have to live in the district in which he or she is running.

Greater good: Perhaps it was too much to expect the good of the region to come before the personal agendas of the candidates who filed petitions Thursday to run in the May primary.

We have no doubt that Sawyer, who has served in Congress for 16 years, is sincere when he says that he will not ignore this region and that he intends to campaign actively in Trumbull and Mahoning counties. But it certainly won't be with the same intensity had he been facing just one local Democratic candidate.

Even in the 6th District, there is the possibility of two local politicians battling it out in the primary. The district has a Republican edge and local Republicans believe they could win the seat given that Mahoning and Columbiana counties account for a large percent of the population.

But a bloody GOP primary would certainly be to the advantage of Congressman Ted Strickland, a Democrat from Lucasville, who now finds himself in a district that includes Mahoning and Colum biana counties. Strickland can be expected to win the Democratic nomination.

He would then face either Lyle Williams of Lordstown, a former member of Congress, or Michael Halleck, a former Columbiana County commissioner. They filed petitions on Thursday to seek the Republican nomination.




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