As a journalist who revels in the misery of politicians under fire, this writer is hoping that convicted felon James A. Traficant Jr. files petitions to run for Congress as an independent.
But as a 31-year resident of the Mahoning Valley, this writer hopes that Traficant, the former congressman-turned-federal criminal, will not only shy away from this year’s congressional race, but will go away — forever.
The filing deadline for independent candidacies is 4 p.m. Monday. Traficant has petitions for both the 17th District and the 6th District. And while speculation has been mounting about what he will do, Traficant has been coy.
It may well be that he has some ulterior motive for not showing his hand, Or, he could be weighing the pros and cons (no, not the cons as in convicts) of sticking his neck out and having his head chopped off by the thinking voters in either the 17th or 6th. Because, if the former sheriff of Mahoning County does make a bid, he will lose.
After seven-plus years in the federal penitentiary, not even those voters who are blinded by his anti-government screed would risk returning him to office. He might wear his conviction on 10 criminal charges, including racketeering, bribery and tax evasion, as a badge of honor, but there is nothing honorable about him.
The yes-men (and women) who surround Traficant can keep telling him that he was the victim of a grand federal government conspiracy until they’re blue in the face.
In the end, however, Jim Traficant is a crook — which is why having him run for Congress this year is so appealing to a journalist.
If he decides to enter the general election race, he will not be able hide — as he has done since he came out of prison. To be sure, he has dealt with reporters, but by the rules that he has established. He has refused to answer specific questions about his incarceration, his criminal behavior while a member of Congress, his life since his release from prison, and his now famous deal-making with Mafia leaders during his campaign for sheriff.
So, here are some questions he will be asked, and will have to answer — if he is to be taken seriously:
1. You were in a medical prison facility for several years. Was it because you were temporarily cuckoo, or were you being treated for a heart ailment?
2. You’ve long complained that the federal government has forced you to the brink of poverty. And yet, while you were in prison your residence in Poland underwent major renovations, including landscaping. Where did the money come from?
3. Since you’ve been out of prison have you had any contacts with J.J. Cafaro or any other member of the Cafaro family, directly or through an intermediary?
4. Your presence on the ballot means that you will be drawing Democratic votes away from the Democratic incumbent. Have any commitments been made to you by the Republicans who would benefit from your being a cutter?
5. You have become somewhat of a hero to the Tea Party movement, and yet you have directly benefited from the government you now criticize. You began slopping at the public trough three decades ago, and even now as a convicted felon you’re still receiving taxpayer dollars. Don’t you see the irony of your standing up there railing against the intrusive federal government?
6. Your making book with organized crime bosses Charlie and Ronnie Carabbia during your run for county sheriff continues to intrigue those enthralled by the Mafia. Were you relieved when you found out that Charlie had disappeared?
It would be fun to have Traficant on the campaign trail, peppering him with questions that he obviously doesn’t want to answer.
On the other hand, Traficant would be doing the Mahoning Valley a big favor by not running this year. His candidacy will dredge up the region’s putrid political history and will turn the state and national spotlight on us — and not in a good way.
As has been noted in this space, there are a lot of positive things going on in the Valley that are overshadowed by this man who knows no shame.
Do the good people of this region really want him around when the French owners of V&M Star come to town to cut the ribbon on the $650 million expansion project?
Of course not.