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YOUNGSTOWN Traficant will have signatures for independent run, aide says



Published: Thu, May 2, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Traficant has asked for more time to file with the House ethics committee.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Come Monday, U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. will have enough signatures on nominating petitions to run for Congress as an independent candidate, according to his spokesman.

Because Traficant, a Poland Democrat who has served nine terms in the House of Representatives, is running as an independent for the 17th Congressional District seat, he is facing a bigger challenge in the number of signatures needed than he has in the past.

Traficant, convicted last month on 10 felony counts including racketeering and bribery, would have needed 50 valid signatures to run in the Democratic primary, but the rules are different for independent candidates.

An independent candidate needs 10 percent of the total number of people in the congressional district who voted in the last gubernatorial election, or 1,776 valid signatures.

Those filing as independent candidates have to turn in nominating petitions by Monday.

Charles Straub, Traficant's spokesman, dismissed any talk that the congressman is having trouble.

Not concerned

"There's no concern about getting the signatures; it's an ongoing effort," Straub said. "The deadline is approaching, but I think he fully intends to have enough signatures. I understand there's petitions out everywhere, so it actually makes it very difficult for the campaign to even figure out how many they have out at any one given time."

Six candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination in Tuesday's primary.

State Rep. Ann Womer Benjamin of Aurora is the lone Republican candidate.

Traficant is to be sentenced June 27.

If he is not sent to prison pending appeal and stays in the race, political experts say it could benefit Womer Benjamin in the largely Democratic district because Democrats would split their votes between the party's nominee and Traficant.

Meanwhile, Traficant's Washington office says the congressman has filed a request for an extension to file a response with the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.

The outcome of that committee's investigation could lead to a full House vote on whether to expel Traficant.

Time to respond

The congressman was given less than five business days to respond to the investigative subcommittee's request for a statement of defense and, given the complexity of the federal case against him, he will need more time to make a comprehensive statement, his office said.

Traficant urged the committee to move cautiously. The outcome of his recent trial in Cleveland "jeopardizes any outspoken member of Congress who is not in the mainstream and criticizes the bureaucracy and the status quo," Traficant said.

Also, Traficant subpoenaed three local television stations -- WFMJ, WYTV and WKBN -- requesting copies of interviews the station aired of jurors from his trial a few hours after the verdict was read.

The three stations plan to comply with the subpoena.

skolnick@vindy.com




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