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Taft suggests piggyback special election



Published: Tue, July 23, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Trumbull commissioners are also expected to pass a resolution against a special election.

COLUMBUS -- Gov. Bob Taft said that, if U.S. Rep. James Traficant is expelled from Congress on ethics-related violations, he will consider calling for a special election on the date of the Nov. 5 general election for the remainder of the congressman's unexpired term.

Holding the special congressional election then could help save an estimated $400,000 it would cost to hold a separate special election, Taft said Monday.

"We'll make the decision very shortly after he's expelled, if in fact he's expelled," Taft said. "We're looking at the matter right now."

Trumbull County commissioners have asked the governor to leave Traficant's seat open until the end of the year, should the Poland Democrat be expelled. The current two-year term ends at the end of the year.

A U.S. House panel has found the 61-year-old Traficant guilty of nine ethics-related violations. The ethics committee has recommended expelling Traficant, and a full vote in the U.S. House is scheduled for Wednesday.

A federal jury in Ohio convicted Traficant earlier this year on 10 criminal counts, including charges of bribery and accepting kickbacks. Sentencing is set for next Tuesday.

Short term

Whoever is elected would serve only until the end of the year, when Traficant's term was to end and new congressmen for redrawn districts are sworn in.

"I don't see any advantage to having a special election," said Commissioner Joseph Angelo Jr. "It just seems a waste of taxpayer money."

Angelo and his colleagues Michael O'Brien and James Tsagaris sent a letter asking Taft not to hold a special election.

Angelo said the commissioners are asking their counterparts in Mahoning and Columbiana counties to do the same.

Commissioners from all three counties have previously said they opposed a special election because of the expense, estimated by the state at $400,000.

Angelo said a special election would cost Trumbull County alone $270,000.

In addition to the letter, commissioners are expected to pass a resolution Wednesday officially opposing a special election.

Unusual situation

A special election could set up a situation in which voters would decide on a representative for the congressional district as it's now configured as well as a representative in the newly redrawn district that will be in place in January.

The current 17th Congressional District is made up of Mahoning, much of Trumbull and Columbiana counties. The newly redrawn 17th Congressional District will take in most of Trumbull and portions of Mahoning, Portage and Summit counties.

Other parts of the old 17th Congressional District are broken up among other redrawn congressional districts.

XCONTRIBUTORS: Vindicator correspondent Jeff Ortega and staff writer Stephen Siff.




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