Sunday, January 13, 2002

Changes threaten Traficant seat

Proposed districts would omit Democrat

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — Legislation that seeks to redraw Ohio congressional districts would eliminate the seat held by embattled Democrat James Traficant, sources familiar with the map said.

        The bulk of his district in northeast Ohio would be divided among districts now held by two Republicans and a Democrat, sources from both parties, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Friday.

        Ohio is losing one of its 19 seats in the U.S. House because its population in the 2000 census did not grow as much as other states'. A bill that would redraw the congressional district lines is to be introduced in the General Assembly this week.

        The sources emphasized the final lines are not set, but that Mr. Traficant's district would be divided. They did not comment on why his district is targeted.

        Since the GOP-controlled General Assembly and Republican Gov. Bob Taft must approve the new map, a Democrat is certain to be the target.

        Mr. Traficant is scheduled to go on trial Feb. 4 on federal corruption charges. He is serving his ninth term in the district that surrounds Youngstown.

        He plans to seek re-election but will study the final map before deciding in which district, spokesman Charles Straub said.

        “The congressman will look at the way the map's drawn up,” Mr. Straub said. “He'll make his run where it's most appropriate.”

        Mr. Traficant has pleaded not guilty to racketeering, bribery and conspiracy charges.

        Federal prosecutors say Mr. Traficant made office employees work on his farm and paid contractors with political favors. He also allegedly forced staff members to kick back part of their pay.

        The legislature must pass a redistricting bill by the end of the month for the May 7 primary.


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