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17TH DISTRICT RACE Benjamin to official: Steer clear of race



Published: Fri, September 20, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The chamber president said he is disappointed by the Republican's statements.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Ann Womer Benjamin, Republican candidate for the 17th Congressional District, is concerned about the level of involvement the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber president has in the campaign of Timothy J. Ryan, her Democratic opponent.

Womer Benjamin said Thomas Humphries, chamber president, told her he supported Ryan in the Democratic primary and that she has "heard from others that he is working for Ryan."

Humphries gave a $1,000 campaign contribution to Ryan during the primary and has high praise for him, but he said Womer Benjamin is dead wrong if she thinks he is actively supporting the Democratic nominee in the general election.

Because of Womer Benjamin's concern, Humphries said he intends to take a hands-off approach in the 17th District race.

"Frankly, I'm a little more disappointed than surprised," Humphries said. "She has the wrong impression about me."

Humphries of Liberty said he has explained his position to Womer Benjamin, but she apparently did not understand it.

The Aurora Republican said Thursday she is pleased Humph-ries is staying out of the race, saying it is "sort of inappropriate" that Humphries was involving himself in support of Ryan.

Financial support

Humphries acknowledges that he supported Ryan financially during the six-person Democratic primary because he felt the state senator from Niles was the best candidate. He also said he would have probably contributed to a Republican candidate if that party's primary wasn't uncontested.

Humphries is a registered Democrat who describes himself as a conservative independent.

"I write checks to the people I believe in; they could be Democrats or Republicans, or even to two candidates in the same race," he said. "I want highly qualified, capable, competent people. I don't care what party they're in."

Humphries said he has the utmost confidence that Ryan and Womer Benjamin would do well as the 17th District representative. He also has faith that U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, a Lucasville Democrat, and Michael Halleck, a Salem Republican, can do the job as the 6th District representative. Humphries has contributed to Halleck's campaign.

Has chamber support

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Ohio Chamber of Commerce are endorsing Womer Benjamin. Although the local chamber, which represents 2,600 area businesses, is a member of both, it operates independently and does not make congressional endorsements, Humph-ries said.

Womer Benjamin said Tuesday she was "irritated" that Humphries "found his way" into a July 17 fund-raiser she held, which was sponsored by Gov. Bob Taft. Thursday, she acknowledged she probably should not have made those statements.

Humphries said he was at the July event as an invited guest of Mahoning Republican Chairman Clarence Smith.

skolnick@vindy.com




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