- The Washington Times - Friday, December 18, 2009

CLEVELAND | Colorful former Rep. James Traficant, recently released from prison after serving seven years on corruption charges, said Thursday that he is “proud of being an ex-con” and may try to run again for a seat in Congress.

Mr. Traficant, a Democrat who was elected to nine terms from Youngstown before he was expelled from the House, said he will circulate nominating petitions in three House districts. He didn’t specify which, but the three districts closest to his hometown are all held by Democrats.

He deflected a question on whether he would run next year as a Democrat, Republican or independent, saying that would be decided in time.

Mr. Traficant said some supporters have suggested that he run for president.

“I have more of a national following than I realize,” said Mr. Traficant, who didn’t rule out a White House run.

He said he will decide on his political plans next month. He discussed his options at a news conference at which he pitched the idea of a Youngstown-area casino run by Native Americans. The required tribal status is pending, he said.

Mr. Traficant, in a wide-ranging news conference streamed live in Youngstown, displayed his trademark freewheeling style, charging prosecutorial misconduct in his case, criticizing Ohio for omitting Youngstown from a November ballot issue that approved casinos in four bigger cities, and denouncing an old nemesis, the Internal Revenue Service.

The 68-year-old one-time sheriff offered to help anyone facing scrutiny from the IRS and laughed at his self-described status as an ex-con ex-congressman. “I’m proud of being an ex-con, by the way,” he said.

He was released in September after serving time for racketeering, bribery, obstruction of justice and tax evasion.

Mr. Traficant, whose wild hair and pugnacious debating style contributed to his offbeat reputation, was convicted in a raucous trial 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.

Although he’s not a lawyer, Mr. Traficant defended himself at his trial. His self-defense led to frequent clashes with the judge over what questions might be asked and how.

His conviction would not bar Mr. Traficant from running for Congress. He ran for re-election from prison in 2002, losing to Rep. Tim Ryan, a Democrat who still represents Youngstown in Congress.

Mr. Traficant’s associates have mentioned the possibility of his running in Mr. Ryan’s district or the district held by Democratic Rep. Charlie Wilson, which stretches from the Youngstown suburbs south along the Ohio River, Youngtown’s Vindicator newspaper reported.

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