Traficant Still Has Sympathy Among Supporters At Home

By JOE MILICIA, Associated Press Writer

POLAND, Ohio (AP) - There appears to be no shortage of sympathy for James A. Traficant Jr. in his home community, now that the House voted to expel the Mahoning Valley's longtime congressman.

Ralph Valerio, 62, said at a local bar he's voted for Traficant in every election since Traficant was a sheriff and would vote for him again.

"I think he can get just as much done from prison as anyone else who takes his job," the retired electrical worker said.

Traficant (pictured, above) did everything he could for the district, including retaining jobs and settling strikes, Valerio said.

"I feel we're going to be hurting. I think our economy will be hurting. I think unemployment will be on the rise," Valerio said.

Linda Bosela, 45, of Boardman, said his outlandish behavior annoyed her, but she admired his willingness to cross party lines to vote for what he believed.

"I can't stand the man, but I respect him," she said.

She felt sorry for him as he pleaded his case before the House, she said.

"I felt that he was singled out," she said, adding that he's not the only politician to seek favors.

Traficant became a local hero in the early 1980s when, as sheriff, he refused to foreclose on the homes of laid-off steel workers.

Many residents have not forgotten that, including Willie House, 37, who said Traficant has tried to help people his whole life.

Dave Maverman, a construction worker building the new federal courthouse for which Traficant secured money, said he has never bothered to vote because "there's nobody here to vote for. When they get a person that's honest here in Mahoning County, I'll vote for them."

Traficant is one of more than 70 local public officials convicted in the past few years in a sweeping federal corruption probe.

"It's good that it's over. It's time for this area to move on," said pizza shop owner Don Larcinese, 58, of Poland.

The televisions at Inner Circle Pizza were tuned to C-SPAN rather than sports Wednesday night as the House debated Traficant's fate, but there was little outcry over the ousting of the blustery Democrat. Youngstown-area residents elected him to nine terms.

"Actually, I feel a little sorry for him. It's embarrassing," said Bob Simmons, 45, of Poland.

Simmons said he supported Traficant early on, but he won't miss him "one bit."

"He just got a little too out there for me. I didn't see any results," he said.

The district has not had a congressman for a while, Simmons said, noting that Traficant has been without a committee assignment.

Steve Allee, 27, said he was glad to see the area finally rid of the sometimes profane congressman.

"They're sending a very clear signal," Allee said of the near-unanimous House vote. "They're not leaving any question about how the House feels."

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