NPR logo Hair Apparent: Traficant Leaves Dems, May Run For Congress As Independent

Hair Apparent: Traficant Leaves Dems, May Run For Congress As Independent

Former Rep. James Traficant, who served nine terms in Congress as a Democrat from Youngstown, Ohio — until he went to prison for seven years for corruption — says he has left the Democratic Party and will run for Congress this year as an independent.

Convicted on racketeering, bribery and tax evasion charges, Traficant was expelled from the House in July 2002 — only the second congressman kicked out since the Civil War. The vote was 420-1, with Rep. Gary Condit (D-CA), with his own set of problems, voting against expulsion.

Traficant was a Democrat but in later years often alienated members of his own party. During the 2001 vote to organize the House, he voted for Republican Dennis Hastert for speaker, eliciting gasps in the chamber. But he had an eclectic national following, thanks to an endless stream of speeches/tirades he would give on the House floor, often railing against the Internal Revenue Service.

In the fall of 2002, from his prison cell, Traficant ran for Congress as an independent but lost in the newly-configured district to Tim Ryan, a Democrat who still serves. But he received 15 percent of the vote.

Traficant has not specified what district he would run in, but he said it would be as an independent in the fall. Of course, in that he may not have a choice; the filing deadline to get on the Ohio May 4 primary ballot was last Thursday. The districts he is thought to be looking at are the 17th, held by Ryan, and the 6th, in the east and southeast parts of the state, represented by two-term Democrat Charlie Wilson.