The Democratic candidate is the third person to receive the union's endorsement this year for the 17th Congressional District seat.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
NORTH JACKSON -- The United Auto Workers, which pulled its endorsement of Warren Davis for the 17th Congressional District position after he refused to retire from union leadership, is throwing its support behind Democrat Timothy J. Ryan.
"Considering the Warren Davis situation, it's real important to us to get this endorsement," said Patrick Lowry, Ryan's campaign spokesman.
The UAW at its international convention last month withdrew its endorsement of Davis, a union member for 48 years including the past 19 as a regional director, because he sought re-election to his Region 2 post. The union also eliminated Region 2, splitting its remains into three other regions.
The reason for this, union officials say, is Davis, an independent congressional candidate from Bay Village, lied to them when he said he would not seek re-election. The union has a long-standing policy of having its directors retire after they turn 65 and complete their term. Davis, 67, has called the rule archaic and discriminatory.
Ryan is now the third person the UAW has endorsed for the 17th Congressional District seat. The union endorsed state Sen. Robert F. Hagan, a Youngstown Democrat, in January, but Hagan opted not to run for the congressional seat.
Ryan, a state senator from Niles, has already received a number of labor endorsements for the November general election, including the AFL-CIO.
Davis could not be reached Monday to comment.
David All, campaign manager for Republican Ann Womer Benjamin, who is also running for the 17th District, expressed surprise at the union's endorsement of Ryan.
"I can't believe the national UAW is forcing the local [unions] to support Tim Ryan when Warren Davis has been fighting for autoworkers all of his life," he said. "Also, we were never asked to screen with them even though we're with them on their issues 100 percent."
Womer Benjamin has been "a friend of labor, but when we needed key votes, she went the other way," such as on tort reform, said Michael Aurilio, chairman of the Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull UAW Community Action Program Council, the union's political organization.
There are about 15,000 to 20,000 active and retired UAW members in the 17th District, which includes portions of Mahoning, Trumbull, Portage and Summit counties.
Ryan received the union's endorsement because he has voted with the UAW's position and is approachable, Aurilio said.
"He's got real good promise," Aurilio said of Ryan, who has 18 months of elected political experience. "He's a little green, but it will come with training. We can mold him a little."
Aurilio, one of the early backers of Davis, said it was unfortunate that the former regional director went against the union's mandatory retirement policy. But once Davis did that, he should have known he was going to lose the union's support, Aurilio said.
The fourth congressional candidate for the 17th District seat is U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. of Poland, who is running as an independent. Traficant had often received the UAW's endorsement in previous elections, but did not get it during his 2000 campaign.
The Auto Workers union donated $5,000 to Ryan's congressional campaign before June 30; its directors voted to endorse Ryan on June 27 even though it wasn't publicly announced until now, Aurilio said.
Because the union gave Ryan's campaign the money before June 30, federal election rules say they are permitted to give him another $5,000 between now and the end of this year.