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17TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT Rep's aide berates advocates of split



Published: Wed, January 9, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Traficant's spokesman said local Democrats' complaints gave the GOP an easy choice.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- If the Republican-controlled state Legislature moves ahead with its plan to get rid of the 17th Congressional District and place the Mahoning Valley into four other districts, nine-term U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. knows at whom to point the finger, according to his spokesman.

"The decision at the state level as to what district to cut is made so much easier if you've got a group of Democratic politicians asking for the splitting-up of a Democratic district," said Charles Straub, Traficant's spokesman. "Not only did it draw attention to the area, but it makes it more easier for the GOP-controlled state Legislature to look at this as a viable option because you have Democrats calling for it to be split up. It gives the Republicans an easy out."

In recent months, Warren city officials and Trumbull County Commissioner Joseph J. Angelo Jr. have called for Trumbull to be split from Mahoning County in a congressional district and have written letters to state officials seeking that move.

Warren officials say their city has been overlooked for years and that by moving all or some of Trumbull County to another district, Warren could get the attention and federal money it deserves.

Objectors: Traficant, of Poland, D-17th; Mahoning County officials; and the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce dispute those claims.

Traficant wants to keep the 17th District as is but would run for Congress in whatever district his hometown of Poland is placed, Straub said.

It was reported Tuesday that a plan to eliminate the 17th District and place its remains in four other districts is gaining momentum among state GOP decision-makers.

The 17th District, represented by Traficant since 1985, includes Mahoning County, all but 300 voters in Columbiana County, and Trumbull County except its western portion.

Proposed split: The Republican plan calls for:

UThe western portion of Mahoning County to go into the 16th District, represented by U.S. Rep. Ralph Regula, a Navarre Republican.

UThe eastern portion of Mahoning County and the lower 60 percent of Trumbull County -- the Valley's most Democratic region -- moving to one of two nearby districts that are currently represented by Democratic congressmen.

UThe upper 40 percent of Trumbull going to the 19th District, represented by U.S. Rep. Steven C. LaTourette, a Madison Republican.

U Either splitting Columbiana County between Regula's district and the 18th District, represented by U.S. Rep. Bob Ney, a St. Clairsville Republican; or kept in one piece and put in either of those two districts.

A state Democratic redistricting plan released Tuesday keeps the 17th District largely intact. The Democratic plan for the 17th includes all of Mahoning and Columbiana counties with the lower 80 percent of Trumbull County, in addition to the northern tip of Carroll County and the western portion of Stark County.

But it is state Republicans who have control over redistricting because of their majorities in the Ohio House and Senate.

The Republican redistricting plan could be considered by the state Legislature as early as next week.

Reason for changes: The state Legislature has to redraw the state's congressional districts every 10 years based on population figures from the U.S. Census. Ohio is losing one of its 19 congressional districts because the state's population did not keep pace with the rest of the nation.

Republican leaders want to eliminate a congressional district controlled by a Democrat and make Republican-controlled districts stronger.

Republicans see the 17th District as ideal to eliminate because it is one of the most Democratic districts in the state and because Traficant has legal woes that make his political future uncertain. Traficant faces a 10-count federal indictment on charges including racketeering and bribery. His trial begins Feb. 4.

skolnick@vindy.com




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