By Bertram de Souza (Contact)
Published October 31, 2009
Is former Congressman-turned federal inmate-turned Tea Bagger James A. Traficant Jr. contemplating a bid for Congress? If his public behavior since his release from federal prison after an eight-year stint is any indication, Traficant, the shameless self-promoter, is running for something. The only political offices that are available to a convicted felon like him are at the federal level — U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate and President.
Of those three, Congress seems the most likely — especially since he has become a hero to the folks, mostly Republicans, who have been organizing the so-called Tea Parties in the area.
The following e-mail sent recently to this writer appears to give credence to the chatter about Traficant’s political future:
“[A]pparently Sonny Smith is joining Dave Johnson by going whole hog for Traficant. … he told one of our people that he’s going to put his money behind Traf to run against Tim Ryan next year. He’s saying that people talk about Traf being a so-called ‘felon’ but it’s Ryan who is the crook. The Republicans at least in Mahoning and Columbiana are going for Traf. Not sure who Craig Bonar in Trumbull will back but I think he likes Bill Johnson from Poland who also is talking about running for Congress.
"What a weird world.”
Clarence “Sonny” Smith is chairman of the Mahoning County Republican Party. Smith is a major financial contributor to state and national GOP candidates; David Johnson is chairman of the Columbiana County Republican Party and also a major contributor to GOP candidates; Craig Bonar is chairman of the Trumbull County Republican Party.
Congressman Tim Ryan, a Democrat from Niles, represents the 17th District, which encompasses Trumbull County and a large portion of Mahoning County. Ryan has earned a reputation on Capitol Hill as a rising star in the Democratic caucus and is a strong supporter of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. As a result, he has secured a seat on the powerful Appropriations Committee and has been successful in bringing hundreds of millions of dollars to the district.
Ryan enjoys widespread popularity. The best thing that could happen to Traficant’s critics is for the ex-con and ex-congressman to run against the incumbent. Traficant would have his political clock cleaned and then he might be shamed into getting out of the public spotlight.