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Published: Wednesday, 9/15/2010

Traficant torture

It's up to voters in Ohio's Mahoning Valley to send former Youngstown congressman and ex-con James Traficant back to obscurity.

After seven years of being cooped up in federal prison for bribery and other corruption-related crimes, Traficant is eager to be seen and heard again. And now he will be, having qualified to run for his old congressional seat after all.

The Trumbull County Board of Elections approved Traficant for the ballot in the November race in Ohio's 17th District, which includes Youngstown and parts of Akron. He was initially disqualified from the ballot in July, when his petition came up short of the required signatures.

But he secured 11 more signatures than he needed and is good to go for the House seat he held for 17 years, before he was kicked out in 2002 for taking bribes and cheating on his taxes.

He is facing Republican Jim Graham and incumbent Democrat Tim Ryan, a former Traficant aide who replaced his convicted boss and has won more than three-quarters of the vote in each of his re-elections since. The felon has promised, if elected, to take on the Internal Revenue Service, saying he would “kick them in the crotch real good.” He vows to repeal the tax-collecting 16th Amendment.

The colorful 69-year-old says he's “got no money” and his critics “got me painted as Darth Vader.” The reference recalls a Traficant penchant for punctuating his one-minute House floor speeches with Star Trek catch phrases such as: “Beam me up, Scotty.”

The Starship Enterprise has lifted off. Though Traficant wasn't on it, Youngstown area voters can dispatch him soon enough.

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