Traficant Says He Will Run As An Independent

By PAUL SINGER, Associated Press Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. said Wednesday he will run for re-election as an independent in the newly formed 17th congressional district.

Traficant, D-Ohio, made the announcement as he left his federal corruption trial, which was entering its third week.

Traficant (pictured, above) said his trial leaves him no time to mount a primary campaign for the Democratic nomination. "I don't have time to do anything, I don't have time to blow my nose."

"The only opportunity I have -- if I do win (in court) -- to get into a campaign and have time to campaign would be after this trial is over," Traficant said.

"If I'm convicted I have no shot as it is," Traficant said. "If I'm not convicted, I have to run in an area that I've never run in before and run with the disadvantage of being in fact an independent, when independents normally do not have much success. At this point I think the dynamics of this case have put me into a position where I don't have much choice."

Democratic and Republican candidates for Congress have to file candidacy papers by Thursday. Independents have until May 6, the day before the primary, to file.

Ohio's congressional districts were redrawn this year, reducing the state's delegation from 19 to 18 and eliminating Traficant's northeast Ohio district. The changes reflected population shifts recorded in the 2000 census.

Traficant has represented the Youngstown-Warren area since 1985. He previously had said he would run again, but had not chosen a district.

Last week, Democratic U.S. Rep. Tom Sawyer announced he will seek re-election in a newly drawn 17th district that includes the heavily unionized Youngstown area. Sawyer, 56, has represented the Akron area for 17 years.

Traficant has angering Democrats in Congress for years by voting with the Republicans on many bills and helping to elect Republican Dennis Hastert as speaker. He is the only member of the House without committee assignment.

Federal prosecutors have accused Traficant of accepting gifts and favors in exchange for using his political influence, forcing his staff to make cash kickbacks or do favors for him, tax falsification and racketeering.

He has pleaded innocent to 10 counts, including racketeering. He is representing himself, though he is not an attorney.

If convicted, he could be sentenced to 63 years in prison and could face expulsion from the House.

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