Another hat thrown in 6th District ring

On the side

Austintown’s parade: As regular readers know, I’m a huge fan of the Austintown Fourth of July Parade. The parade starts at 2 p.m. Thursday.

It’s a fun — often funny — political event with sweaty officeholders and candidates passing out candy and shaking hands. Politicians are as important to the parade as fire trucks, police cars, floats, marching bands and classic cars.

Each year, my family and I stand near the Greenbriar stone sign on South Raccoon Road and get pelted with candy from politicians with good aim. We also pick up candy off the ground from politicians with bad aim.

The smart politician is the one who understands the difference between good candy — Sweet Tarts, Now and Laters, Starbursts and Tootsie Rolls — and bad candy — hard blue mints, cinnamon discs and butterscotch.

The Austintown trustees badly bumbled an attempt last year to dump hundreds of mini Tootsie Rolls on my head. Perhaps they’ll come up with something more creative next week.

There’s a third Democrat interested in running next year for the 6th Congressional District.

Mahoning County Commissioner Anthony Traficanti, first elected in 2004 to that post, said he’s eyeing a potential run for the 6th and should have a decision shortly.

Traficanti of Poland said he has received a lot of support and encouragement from Democrats in the 18-county 6th District that stretches from southern Mahoning County through Appalachia along the Ohio River and into Scioto County.

Serving in Congress has been a longtime aspiration for Traficanti, who worked for then-U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. from 1991 to 2002 before he was expelled from Congress and sent to federal prison.

The other Democrats looking at challenging two-term U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, a Republican from Marietta, for the seat next year are state Sen. Lou Gentile of Steubenville, D-30th, and former state Rep. Jennifer Garrison of Marietta, who is being urged to run by top national Democrats.

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern said all three would be “good candidates.”

Of the three, Garrison appears to be the most committed with an announcement expected soon.

Garrison, a former three-term state House member, was invited last month by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to Washington, D.C., for a Jumpstart program primarily designed to help top-tier already-announced candidates with financial and strategic support. She was among only six unannounced House candidates to attend the event.

Her candidacy has also drawn the attention of the National Republican Congressional Committee, which is targeting 14 Democratic incumbents and candidates with Google ad campaigns in their districts highlighting what the NRCC sees as their weaknesses.

The NRCC ad contends Garrison would be a “rubberstamp” for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

“If elected, these hand-picked Nancy Pelosi candidates are going to do nothing but advocate for higher spending, higher debt, and even more irresponsible big-government policies to push upon the American people,” said Andrea Bozek, NRCC spokeswoman.

In response, Mark Riddle, a Garrison senior adviser, said: “It says a lot about the state of politics today that the Republicans in Washington have started running a negative campaign even before Jennifer has made an official announcement of her candidacy.” Riddle added that Republicans “clearly” are “worried about Jennifer Garrison’s record of being a strong, independent voice for working people.”

Meanwhile, Gentile was given the high-profile position of one of two co-hosts for last weekend’s Ohio Democratic Party annual state dinner at Redfern’s request.

People shouldn’t read the selection of Gentile for the honor as the state party sending a message to the DCCC that it’s backing Gentile if there’s a Democratic primary, Redfern said.

“If I wanted to send a message, I would pick up the phone and call the DCCC,” he said. “This is a recognition of [Gentile’s] accomplishments and his bright future. It reflects his political standing in the state. He is a rising star in the Democratic Party statewide. He will be in and around this business for a long time, whether in Congress, the state Legislature or statewide office.”

Gentile said the state party helped him last year win a race that was the No. 1 target for Republicans in the Ohio Senate, and he’s a strong supporter of the ODP.

While Gentile hasn’t made a decision on running for Congress next year, some Democrats say he’s likely to sit out this election and if a Democrat doesn’t beat Johnson in 2014, Gentile would be on the ballot in 2016 during a presidential year.

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