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17TH DISTRICT Failed bid for seat leaves debt



Published: Sat, July 6, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The outgoing congressman's campaign is about $35,000 in debt.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- U.S. Rep. Thomas C. Sawyer is holding fund-raisers to offset an estimated $35,000 shortfall in his campaign fund.

Sawyer, of Akron, an eight-term incumbent, spent about $400,000 during his failed attempt to win the May Democratic primary for the 17th Congressional District seat, said Dan Lucas, his chief of staff. Sawyer, who received 19,098 votes in the primary, spent about $21 a vote.

He finished second in the primary to state Sen. Timothy J. Ryan of Niles, who received 28,646 votes. Ryan spent about $50,000 on his campaign, according to Pat Lowry, his spokesman. That works out to about $1.75 a vote.

When Sawyer files his post-primary campaign report, which is due July 15 and shows his committee's financial activity through June 30, the debt will be about $35,000, Lucas said.

"This is a normal situation; it happens all the time," Lucas said of a congressional campaign operating at a deficit.

Raised some money

Sawyer raised money during two recent fund-raisers, one each in Portage County and Washington, D.C., but not enough to retire the debt, Lucas said. Two other fund-raisers, one in Akron and the other in Washington, will be held in the near future, he said.

Also, Sawyer's congressional colleagues are expected to give him some money to help eliminate his debt, Lucas said.

When asked why anyone would give money to a lame-duck congressman who will be out of a job at the end of the year, Lucas said: "Tom's been in Congress for a long time. It's not quite as mercenary as all that. These guys are up here. They develop a lot of friendships with people."

Sawyer's campaign was forced to file amended campaign reports earlier this week with the Federal Election Commission because of mistakes the committee made reporting expenditures. Lucas described the problem as "a slight technical modification."

The problem

The problem, according to the FEC, was the Sawyer campaign's failure to include on its 2002 April quarterly report about $8,000 in expenditures it incurred between Nov. 8, 2000, and Dec. 31, 2001. Sawyer's campaign had believed any expenses made before Jan. 1 shouldn't count toward this year's campaign.

Sawyer's campaign filed an amended April report as well as an amended pre-primary report Wednesday with the correct expenditure amounts.

"We're now in compliance," Lucas said.

The 17th District includes portions of Mahoning, Trumbull, Summit and Portage counties.

skolnick@vindy.com




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