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Published: Monday, 5/3/2010

Ex-con Traficant to run for Ohio U.S. House seat


WARREN, Ohio — James A. Traficant Jr., who served nearly two decades in Congress and seven years in prison for corruption, filed petitions Monday to run as an independent in his northeast Ohio home turf.

Trumbull County elections board director Kelly Pallante said Traficant came to the board's offices around 9:30 a.m. to file the paperwork, which will be reviewed by a July 15 deadline.

The seat is currently held by Democrat Tim Ryan, who once worked for Traficant and beat Traficant when the incumbent ran for re-election from prison. There was no immediate comment from Ryan, whose campaign said it was preparing a response and agreed to pass along an interview request.

The 68-year-old Traficant was elected to nine terms in Congress as a Democrat from Youngstown before serving time for racketeering, bribery, obstruction of justice and tax evasion. He left federal prison in September. His conviction does not bar him from running for Congress.

Traficant told The Associated Press on Monday that he believes he can win in the Democratic stronghold even though he has no money or campaign staff.

“Maybe it's time money doesn't dictate an election,” he said. Though he has made recent appearances at tea party events throughout northeast Ohio, Traficant said he is not a tea party candidate.

The 17th Congressional District borders were redrawn before Traficant's loss to Ryan. It is now split in two, represented by Ryan and Rep. Charlie Wilson.

Traficant was one of Congress' most colorful members. He was known for a distinctive toupee and hairstyle — Jay Leno called it Washington's worst haircut — and a penchant for Star Trek references, including brief floor speeches typically punctuated with the phrase, “Beam me up.”

He routinely railed against America's rivals, imported goods and the Internal Revenue Service, an agency that Traficant has long sought to eliminate.

“If you work for the IRS, start looking for a job,” he said Monday.

He was convicted in 2002 of accepting bribes from businessmen and taking kickbacks from staff members. He then was expelled from Congress, only the second House member since the Civil War to be ousted for unethical conduct.

The trial marked the third time Traficant had represented himself in court. He won acquittal on mob payoff charges in 1983 but lost a U.S. Tax Court case on similar issues in 1987.

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