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CAMPAIGN 2002 Rep expects a fair amount of competition



Published: Tue, January 29, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



A potential congressional candidate says a Republican challenger from the northern part of the district could win.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

BOARDMAN -- U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland says he would not be surprised to have a number of opponents -- several from Mahoning and Columbiana counties -- challenge him for the new 6th Congressional District seat that stretches for more than 300 miles.

It looks like he is correct.

Mahoning Valley politicians are considering challenges to Strickland, a well-financed, four-term Democratic congressman from Lucasville.

Possible challengers: Mahoning County Recorder John Reardon, a Boardman Democrat, and former Columbiana County Commissioner Michael Halleck, a Salem Republican, say they are seriously looking at entering the race.

Halleck said Strickland is vulnerable to a candidate such as him because the state redistricting plan makes it easier for a Republican from the northern part of the new 12-county 6th District to challenge the Democratic incumbent.

The new district is made up of 51 percent Republicans. Also, Columbiana and Mahoning counties make up about 34 percent of the district and are its two largest counties. That figure jumps to 46 percent if Jefferson County, which borders Columbiana, is included.

"This election will be more about territory than party politics," said Halleck, who also is considering a run for county commissioner. "People will take a very, very close look at voting for someone they are comfortable with, and that has a lot to do with geography."

Other potential candidates include:

UU.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr., a Poland Democrat who lives in the 6th District but is probably running for a seat in the 17th District. The law allows anyone living in the state to run for any congressional seat.

UPaul Alberty, a Poland Republican who failed in 1998 and 2000 to defeat Traficant. Alberty also could opt to run in the 17th District or may seek a state legislative position.

ULyle Williams, a Lordstown Republican who lives in the 17th District but has inquired about running as either a Republican or an independent in the 6th and 17th districts.

UHerman Maass of Poland, retired Lordstown General Motors plant manager. Maass said he has been approached by local political leaders about running against Strickland, but he does not plan on seeking the post. "It's not on my agenda although I think I could win," he said.

Strickland said he "would be somewhat surprised, given the fact this is the first election following the changes in the district lines, if there weren't a number of challengers in the primary and general elections."

Mahoning Republican Chairman Clarence Smith declined to discuss any of the potential candidates, but said the party is "always looking for people [to run for office]. We need some quality politicians in town."

Discussed possibilities: Dave Johnson, a Republican state central committeeman and the former Columbiana County Republican chairman, said he met Saturday with Smith and state Rep. Charles Blasdel, an East Liverpool Republican, to discuss potential candidates.

Johnson said he wants to find a qualified Republican to run for Congress against Strickland, but that person would have to come from the northern part of the district -- Mahoning, Columbiana or Jefferson counties.

If a qualified Republican does not emerge, Johnson said he could support a qualified Democrat as long as the candidate came from the northern part of the district.

Area's importance: Strickland realizes the importance of Mahoning and Columbiana counties to his new district and will be back in this area later this week meeting with key political leaders. Strickland has already been to the Valley three times in the past few weeks.

"It's an area that's certainly very, very important to the composition of this new district, not only in the number of people, but in terms of problems in the district," he said.

Strickland said he understands the concerns of Valley residents about being represented in Washington, D.C., by a congressman who lives a few hundred miles away. But he will do everything he can to win them over.

skolnick@vindy.com




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