The congressman said most questions from Valley residents have been about his positions on the steel industry and guns.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland said the addition of Mahoning and Columbiana counties, among others, to his congressional district is a perfect fit for him.
"Scioto, my home county, has a lot in common with Mahoning County," Strickland, a Lucasville Democrat, said Wednesday during an interview with The Vindicator. "Belmont, Jefferson, Mahoning, a lot of counties along the river have some common features including a history of industry and prosperity, and a lot of economic dislocation. There are a lot of common features in this district."
Strickland, a four-term congressman, lives in the new 6th District that stretches for more than 300 miles through 12 counties. The district includes six new counties for Strickland, including Columbiana County and all but the northeast portion of Mahoning County.
"I feel very comfortable with this new district in terms of demographics," he said.
Fulfilling needs: Strickland said he understands the concerns of people in Mahoning and Columbiana counties about having someone represent them who lives hundreds of miles away. But he is determined to prove himself to those in the Mahoning Valley.
"I will beg, borrow, but I won't steal; I will do everything short of being dishonest to get what is needed for my district," he said. "You'd have to look awfully hard in the Ohio congressional delegation to find someone more effective in their district than me."
As for U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr., the Poland Democrat who currently represents Columbiana and Mahoning counties, Strickland said he shares a lot of Traficant's sentiments on key issues, but their methods are different.
"My one-minutes aren't as colorful," Strickland said in reference to Traficant's famous one-minute speeches on the U.S. House floor. "I don't know Jim terribly well. He's been effective in the past, but I don't know now. I don't think he's very effective now."
Issues: Strickland said he feels strongly that changes need to be made to the nation's trade policies, and he was an opponent of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Strickland has visited the Valley four times in recent weeks. The two issues he has been asked about the most by local residents is his position on steel and guns.
The federal government must do more to help the steel industry, including cracking down on foreign nations and companies that illegally dump steel, Strickland said. He said the Bush administration has done more for the steel industry than the Clinton administration ever did.
Strickland said he is a "very strong supporter of Second Amendment rights," and he favors a concealed-carry gun law.
The congressman has gained the support of some key local Democrats for his re-election bid, including Harry Meshel, the former Ohio Democratic Party chairman and Senate president, and Columbiana County Commissioner Sean Logan.
Strickland expects to have opposition for Congress this year. A number of Valley residents are considering challenges to him. They include former Columbiana County Commissioner Michael Halleck, Mahoning County Recorder John Reardon and Paul Alberty, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 1998 and 2000.