- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 6, 2010

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio | It looks like one of Capitol Hill’s most memorable characters won’t be coming back for an encore.

Former Rep. James A. Traficant Jr., of Ohio, has been disqualified in his bid to return to Congress after seven years in prison because he did not turn in enough valid petition signatures to make the fall ballot, a county elections official said Tuesday.

The colorful Mr. Traficant, who represented the Youngstown area of northeast Ohio as a Democrat in Congress for nearly two decades before being convicted in a corruption case, plans to appeal, an adviser said.

The elections board in Trumbull County ruled that more than 1,000 of the 3,138 petition signatures that Mr. Traficant turned in were invalid. Signatures were thrown out because signers did not live in the congressional district or were not registered to vote, among other reasons, board director Kelly Pallante said. As a result, Mr. Traficant came up 107 signatures short of the number needed to make the ballot, she said.

Mr. Traficant, 69, was hoping to run as an independent on his home turf against Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, who once worked for Mr. Traficant and beat him when he ran for re-election from prison as an incumbent. The Ohio district covers all or part of four counties; Trumbull County took the lead on reviewing the petitions because it includes the most populous part of the district, Ms. Pallante said.

Mr. Traficant will appeal the elections board’s ruling and seek copies of documentation from the petition-verification process, said Linda Kovachik, a former congressional staff member who’s advising the ex-lawmaker on his comeback attempt.

Mr. Traficant would have an opportunity to make his case to the elections board in writing if he felt some of the tossed-out signatures should have been validated, Ms. Pallante said.

The ex-lawmaker was known in Congress for his wild hairstyle, bellbottom pants, flamboyant wardrobe and one-minute floor speeches punctuated with the “Star Trek” catchphrase “Beam me up.” He left federal prison in September.

Mr. Ryan, now in his fourth term in Congress, was elected in 2008 with 78 percent of the vote in the heavily Democratic district. He will face Republican newcomer James Graham in November.

If Mr. Traficant’s appeal is denied, Ohio law sets Aug. 23 as the deadline for write-in candidates to file.

The 17th District includes much of the Mahoning Valley constituency Mr. Traficant represented as a Democrat from 1985 until his expulsion from the House in 2002 on corruption charges.

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