Traficant candidacy in danger

Thus far, only 53 percent of signatures ruled valid



Ex-U.S. Rep. Jim Traficant’s political comeback may already be over.

The Trumbull County Board of Elections will meet at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday to determine how many valid signatures Traficant has on his nominating petitions.

If the petitions Traficant supporters collected in Mahoning, Portage and Summit counties are an indication, Traficant’s bid to run in November as an independent candidate for the 17th Congressional District is done.

Portions of those three counties and Trumbull make up the congressional district.

Traficant submitted nominating petitions May 3 with 3,138 signatures. The ex-congressman needs 2,199 valid signatures to be an independent candidate.

Of the 3,138 signatures, 1,931 came from those in Trumbull County, said Kelly Pallante, that county’s board of elections director.

Of the remaining signatures:

1,074 came from Mahoning, but only 603 were valid or 56.1 percent of those submitted, according to that county’s board of elections.

96 came from Portage with 39 ruled valid or 40.6 percent of those submitted, according to that elections board.

37 came from Summit with only 8 valid signatures, or 21.6 percent, according to that board of elections.

Elections officials in Mahoning, Portage and Summit say many of the invalid signature came from those who live in those counties, but not in the 17th Congressional District.

For Traficant to qualify for the November ballot, he needs at least 1,549 valid signatures from the 1,931 he submitted from Trumbull County voters.

That is 80.2 percent of the signatures Traficant submitted from those in Trumbull County.

His overall success rate in the three other counties isn’t nearly that high — 53.9 percent of signatures Traficant had on petitions in Mahoning, Portage and Summit were ruled valid.

“I’m not concerned,” said Linda Kovachik, a longtime Traficant friend and political adviser who helped with nominating petitions.

“In Mahoning County there was confusion with voters who didn’t know what district they’re in.”

When asked why those who obtained those signatures didn’t notice the problem, Kovachik said some of them also don’t know the congressional boundaries.

Even so, “I feel good about” Traficant’s chances to get on the ballot, she said.

Traficant held his first political fundraiser for this seat Wednesday in Youngstown.

Kovachik wouldn’t say how much the $20-a-ticket event raised.

An independent candidate disqualified for not having enough valid signatures cannot run in November as a write-in candidate, said Kevin Kidder, a spokesman for the Ohio secretary of state.

That is a state election rule that went into effect two years ago.

In 2006, U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson of St. Clairsville, failed to get enough valid signatures on his nominating petitions to run as a Democrat in the 6th Congressional District race.

He waged an expensive write-in campaign — about $1.1 million was spent by Wilson and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee combined — and won the primary, and then the November 2006 general election.

Traficant spent more than 17 years in Congress before being expelled in July 2002.

Traficant of Poland served seven years and a month in federal prison for bribery, racketeering, filing false income taxes and obstruction of justice for crimes he committed while he was a congressman. He was released in September 2009.

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