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Traficant saga continues

Published: Fri, August 13, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

By David Skolnick (Contact)

On the side

A hot streak: It’s been a good seven days for Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras.

A successful Chairman’s Dinner on Thursday, and recognition from the Ohio Democratic Party last Saturday at its annual dinner as the Large County Chairman of the Year.

It was only five years ago when the state party honored then-Mahoning Democratic Chairwoman Lisa Antonini, Betras’ predecessor, with its prestigious woman of the year award.

Betras should hope history doesn’t repeat itself.

About six months after Antonini was named the party’s woman of the year, she had a huge falling out with party leadership.

Antonini blamed Ohio Democratic Chairman Chris Redfern for the problems claiming he “took a stand against me” because she didn’t support him in the December 2005 chairman race. Redfern said Antonini abandoned her responsibilities after that vote, and “wouldn’t support the Ohio Democratic Party” during her final 31/2 years as Mahoning chairwoman.

“The secretary of state has high-paid attorneys. I feel just let them handle it.”

That quote came from Christ Michelakis, a Trumbull County Board of Elections member and ex-county Democratic Party chairman, on how to resolve the eligibility of ex-U.S. Rep. Jim Traficant as an independent candidate for the 17th Congressional District seat.

The reality is the Ohio secretary of state is highly unlikely to make any sort of ruling on Traficant’s eligibility.

That office will almost definitely kick the matter back to the Trumbull board, which is going to have to make a decision.

Despite what some people say about Traficant and his supporters — and I’ve been critical of how they handled his nominating petition issue — they seem to know quite a bit about election law.

As an independent candidate for Congress, Traficant needs valid signatures from at least 1 percent of those in the 17th Congressional District who voted in the last gubernatorial election.

The district includes portions of Mahoning, Trumbull, Portage and Summit counties.

The original number was 2,199.

Traficant’s petitions ended up being 103 signatures short of making him an eligible candidate.

But Traficant’s supporters were able to prove that number was too high, and some signatures ruled invalid by boards of elections were legitimate.

The revised number of signatures Traficant needs is 2,154.

When the signatures were rechecked and rechecked and rechecked Traficant fell 31 signatures short of having enough to get on the ballot.

Traficant’s supporters contend there are more than enough valid signatures that were incorrectly ruled invalid by the boards of elections.

Michelakis and Republican Craig Bonar, two Trumbull board members, voted not to certify the new petition number.

Voting to certify, which would disqualify Traficant, were Democrat Ralph Infante and Republican Kathi Creed.

Traficant supporters want another review, particularly of 62 signatures ruled invalid in Mahoning County that they claim are legitimate even though they don’t match the signatures from the voters’ registration cards.

One more review by the elections boards might be a pain to them, but with Traficant so close, he deserves another examination of his petitions.

After all, the numerous rechecks found more valid signatures.

We’ve already heard claims by Traficant supporters of conspiracy by elections officials to keep the convicted felon off the ballot.

If he’s disqualified, we’ll hear more.

Ideally, enough signatures will be found to put Traficant on the ballot so he can proceed to get soundly defeated by U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, a Democrat, in the November general election.

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