Traficant to talk about Congress

By David Skolnick

Communications director doubts an announcement about running for office is coming today.

CANFIELD — Ex-U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr., mulling a political comeback after seven years in federal prison, will announce today something that “will be of significant value to a lot of people,” his communications director said.

Will Traficant declare he’s running for Congress?

“He’ll be talking about Congress,” said Dennis Malloy, Traficant’s communications director. “Congress is one issue. But he said, ‘I’ll have other things to discuss.’”

Malloy said he doubts Traficant will make an announcement on his political future today. This is the first press conference the former 17-year congressman will hold since his Sept. 2 release from prison.

The reason for Malloy’s doubts is Traficant and his advisers are discussing what congressional district — the 17th, held by U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, a Niles Democrat; or the 6th, held by U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson, a St. Clairsville Democrat — he’d run in should he decide to be a candidate.

“I would hope not; I would think not,” Malloy said of a Traficant congressional announcement at today’s press conference at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Canfield. “We have not done adequate research” on the districts.

Columbiana County Republican Party Chairman Dave Johnson said he hopes Traficant runs for Congress. Traficant ran as a Democrat in every election except his last, in 2002, when he ran from a prison cell as an independent for Congress. He finished last in a three-person race won by Ryan.

“We need someone in Washington who’ll stand up for the people,” Johnson said of Traficant.

Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras said there’s no reason for him to comment until Traficant makes an announcement. Betras declined to answer questions about whether Traficant should run for political office. But he repeated earlier statements that the Valley has “moved on under new leadership.”

William Binning, chairman of the Youngstown State University political science department, said he doubts Traficant will announce a congressional run today.

“Even if he intends to run — and I’m skeptical he’s going to run — whatever he says [today] will be a teaser,” Binning said. “The way to keep the press interested is to tease them. It wouldn’t be Traficant-like to announce now. He could babble on about something else” at the press conference.

Binning pointed out that Traficant, of Poland, is having his first press conference in Canfield, which is in the 6th District. The Hampton Inn is a short distance from Wilson’s Canfield office.

“That, to me, is telling,” he said. “If it’s a congressional run, it’s not the 17th.”

Traficant has appeared on a number of national television programs since his release. Traficant was expelled from the U.S. House in July 2002 after being found guilty on 10 felony convictions including racketeering, bribery, obstruction of justice and tax evasion.

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