AKRON, Ohio (AP) - For the first time, U.S. Rep. Tom Sawyer won't have the union backing of hometown rubber workers in his re-election campaign.
The 7,000-member Steelworkers Local 2, which includes rubber workers in Akron, has endorsed state Rep. Anthony Latell of Girard in the May 7 Democratic primary in the newly formed 17th Congressional District.
The district had been centered on Akron. But Ohio's congressional districts were redrawn this year and the district now includes Akron, Youngstown and portions of Trumbull, Portage, Summit and Mahoning counties.
The union opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement and said it has lost jobs to Mexico because of it. Sawyer supported NAFTA.
Sawyer's campaign manager, Mike Thomas, called the endorsement of Latell "an unfortunate part of political life." He said Sawyer had a record of supporting union-backed legislation 92 percent of the time.
Sawyer, an eight-term congressman and former Akron mayor, is facing five Democrats from the Youngstown end of the district in the primary.
Latell said the endorsement "gives a chance for people to look at us" and predicted, "This could be the beginning of a strong effort over there" in Akron.
Local 2 president Doug Werstler said the union hadn't opposed Sawyer before because no viable Democrat had challenged him since NAFTA. He said Wednesday that most of his members live in the 17th District.
The other Democratic candidates are state Sen. Timothy Ryan of Niles, Warren defense attorney Maridee Costanzo, Canfield businessman Bryan Taafe and retired Youngstown laborer Joe Louis Teague.
Democrat James Traficant Jr., who has represented the Youngstown-Warren area since 1985, has promised to run as independent in the district even though he was convicted on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Cleveland of taking kickbacks from staff and bribes and gifts from businessmen. Traficant's old district was erased in the redistricting plan.
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)