Friday, December 18, 2009

Jim Traficant is a bitter man!

Jim Traficant is out of prison and speaking up again. You just can't keep the guy down. Youngstown, Ohio's WFMJ TV has a forty-minute presser that Traficant recently gave. If you're not familiar with local issues in Trumbull County, Ohio, this might not interest you that much. But even if you have no connection with the area, I recommend heading to the twelve-minute mark and watching for a few minutes. Anyone would agree that that's where it gets interesting.

Jim Traficant's video events never disappoint. My hometown is right on the border of what used to be Traficant's district. My hometown is Hermitage, Pennsylvania, so there never was a possibility of being drawn into Traficant's Ohio district. But Traficant was immensely popular in the area. He used to have a Sunday morning TV show where he talked about whatever he wanted to talk about. My dad used to watch it. Dad also worked in Washington, DC for a while and told me that Traficant was a huge joke among his fellow representatives down there.

That said, Traficant was always taken immensely seriously in his district. He was convicted in 2002 and sent to prison before the election. During the decennial redistricting, Traficant's district was carved up, but his name was still on the ballot. Despite his being in prison, and his district having gotten cut into three pieces, he still won 10% of the vote. I happened to be in the area a couple weeks before the 2002 elections and there were pro-Traficant signs everywhere, many announcing, "You know he's right!" and similar sentiments.

This video is interesting. Traficant talks about local issues but can tie most of them to national issues (with the significant exception of the Youngstown Scrappers, the local minor league baseball team that he was instrumental in bringing to the area.) Crooked? Sure, maybe he is. But Traficant really does care about the Mahoning Valley, and many of the people there believe that. The local media--most conspicuously the conservative Youngstown Vindicator--indeed do not like Traficant much at all. But his support runs deep among the locals, prison record or no prison record.

I don't know if Traficant's going to run again, or if he's going to run as a Democrat again. Two of the representatives who occupy Traficant's old district are Democrats; one is a Republican. It would make most sense for him to make a play for the 17th district, though that might be difficult, because that's represented by Democrat Tim Ryan, who's very popular.

I don't know if Traficant would win an election, but (heh) I do know this: he'd do okay in an election, and would definitely draw supporters out to rally around him. Personally, I don't think I'd back Traficant. His support for casinos is something I have a big problem with; casinos are a lousy remedy for a flagging economy--and the Mahoning Valley definitely has a flagging economy. But as much as Traficant (and his toupée) might be a joke outside of northeastern Ohio, he's definitely a force in northeastern Ohio.

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