Ohio Democrat a Capitol newcomer in some ways; pro in others

By MALIA RULON, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - When newly elected members of Congress can't find their way around the U.S. Capitol, they have been asking Rep.-elect Tim Ryan for directions.

The Democrat from the Youngstown, Ohio, area is a pro at navigating the halls because he formerly was a staff member for expelled Rep. James A. Traficant.

This week, Ryan (pictured, above) returned to Washington as an incoming lawmaker. He and Republican Rep.-elect Mike Turner of Dayton joined dozens of other congressional newcomers for a week of training and meeting their party leaders.

"It's good to be back," Ryan said. "Everything looks a little different as a member."

Turner, a former mayor of Dayton, Ohio, has never lived in Washington. He arrived before this week's meetings, spending his first weekend in the nation's capital visiting the monuments with his wife, Lori, and two daughters, ages 8 and 10.

"My daughters had never been to Washington, so we didn't want after the election for Mom and Dad to disappear to a strange place," he said.

Turner said that in one week he went from being a tourist to meeting President Bush and his Cabinet secretaries at the White House.

Ryan, who is a state senator from Niles, arrived on Tuesday and immediately started fielding questions from current members of Congress about his former boss, whom he replaces in Congress.

"Most members have asked me, quite honestly, if he had a wig," Ryan said of Traficant.

Traficant's famously unruly hair was discovered to be a toupee in August when the former congressman was searched in jail.

Traficant, who had served nine terms, was convicted of corruption charges this year and is now in federal prison.

"Nobody knew, so he did a really good job of hiding that ... and other things," Ryan joked. He added that he's tried to use his Traficant connection to stand out among the incoming freshmen so that lawmakers will remember conversations with him about committee assignments and funding.

The freshman class for the new Republican-controlled Congress to begin in January, swelled by post-census redistricting that created many new seats, includes at least 18 Democrats and 32 Republicans. Four races are still undecided.

Ryan and Turner have a little over a month to hire staff for their district and Washington offices, which have annual budgets that average around $1 million. They also will have to find an apartment in Washington and learn the rules of the U.S. House from a thick notebook they were given this week.

Offices in Washington will be chosen next week, and committee assignments will come later. This week, the new lawmakers were given the Washington essentials: a cell phone, a laptop and a Blackberry two-way pager.

They also learned how to keep their families intact, avoid ethical problems, deal with the national media and take safety precautions that are necessary considering the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the anthrax scare on Capitol Hill.

"It's been a wonderful orientation," Turner said. "But my to-do list keeps growing."

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)