The regional labor leader does not live in the 17th Congressional District.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The regional director of the United Auto Workers union is exploring a run as an independent candidate for the 17th Congressional District seat.
Nominating petitions were obtained earlier this week from the Trumbull County Board of Elections for Warren Davis, who has served as director of UAW's Region 2 in Cleveland since May 1983.
"There is a committee formed and petitions are out," Davis said. "We are studying whether I run or not."
Davis would have to submit at least 1,776 valid signatures on nominating petitions to the elections board by Monday.
Michael A. Aurilio, chairman of Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull UAW Community Action Program Council, said the local UAW is supporting Davis.
"We have some people out circulating petitions for him," Aurilio said. "When you look at the candidates and how labor-oriented they are, how can we not be on board with a candidate with his background?"
Davis has been active in the UAW for more than four decades, and before his 1983 election as director, he served 13 years as assistant director of Region 2, which covers 36 counties in northeast Ohio and northwest Pennsylvania.
Davis is also a member of the Democratic National Committee and is an executive committee member of the Ohio Democratic Party.
Aurilio said there should be no concerns that Davis, a Cuyahoga County resident, does not live in the 17th Congressional District, which includes portions of Mahoning, Trumbull, Summit and Portage counties.
Also, Davis would not consider running against U.S. Reps. Sherrod Brown and Dennis Kucinich, who are from his area, because they are friends of labor.
Aurilio said he could not speculate if Davis is getting into the 17th District race because of U.S. Rep. Thomas C. Sawyer, an Akron Democrat who angered UAW officials with his vote in favor of the North American Trade Agreement.
Davis strongly urged state Sen. Robert F. Hagan, a Youngstown Democrat, to run for the 17th District seat earlier this year because of his concerns about Sawyer.
Hagan announced he was running for Congress, immediately got the UAW endorsement, and then changed his mind and withdrew. The UAW opted to not endorse any candidate for the 17th District seat. Hagan is supporting Sawyer.
Hagan said he was surprised by Davis's interest in running.
"To say I'm disappointed would be an understatement," he said.
If Davis and U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr., a Poland Democrat, run as independents, it will significantly help state Rep. Ann Womer Benjamin of Aurora, the Republican candidate.
"It's going to be a free-for-all, and the Republicans are flush with money," Hagan said. "With so many candidates in the race, it gives the election to the Republican."
Hagan calls Davis a close friend, but he is not going to switch his allegiance to the labor leader from Sawyer. Hagan expects labor leaders to ask Davis to drop out of the race if state Sen. Timothy J. Ryan of Niles, who has received the endorsement of about 30 labor unions, wins the Democratic primary.