Freshman lawmaker ousts veteran U.S. representative
YOUNGSTOWN -- A 28-year-old freshman state senator grabbed the Democratic nomination from eight-term U.S. Rep. Tom Sawyer during a day of primaries that also saw one of Indiana's sitting Republican congressmen eliminated.
State Sen. Timothy Ryan won Tuesday's primary in Ohio to advance to the general election race that also will feature Rep. James A. Traficant, the colorful Democrat who was convicted of bribery last month but decided to run as an independent.
The results in both states are early examples of how newly drawn political maps will affect congressional races in this pivotal election year.
In Indiana, five-term Rep. Steve Buyer defeated freshman Rep. Brian Kerns for the Republican nomination after they were thrown together into the same district under a Democrat-led redistricting plan.
Sawyer, 56, blamed his defeat on the new political reality.
''The geography of this district was really wired for a hometown boy,'' Sawyer said in his concession speech.
Ryan said Wednesday morning that he never dreamed he would win by nearly 10,000 votes, adding his general election campaign will have the same focus as his primary campaign -- jobs and economic development.
''We're going to make this valley as great as it can be and we're going to try to reach our full potential and that is my sole purpose for being in politics,'' he told WFMJ-TV in Youngstown.
Youngstown State University political science professor William Binning called Ryan's victory ''a surprising, perhaps stunning upset. This young kid had very little money, but he's a talented, gifted kid.'' Under the Constitution, the minimum age for serving in the House is 25.
Sawyer's district and Traficant's old Youngstown district were merged by the Republican-controlled Legislature in January as Ohio lost a congressional seat in the redistricting that follows every census.
Ryan had 28,646 votes, or 41 percent, while Sawyer tallied 19,098, or 28 percent, according to unofficial results compiled by The Associated Press.
In the race in central Indiana's 4th District, Buyer received 43,791 votes, or 55 percent, while Kerns got 23,844, or 30 percent. Some observers had predicted a nasty battle, though the campaign that emerged was largely sedate and polite until the end.
''It is different when you have a member-to-member race,'' said Buyer. ''You work together in Washington, D.C., and come back to Indiana to campaign, so we kept it positive.''
Elsewhere in Ohio, former Dayton mayor Mike Turner trounced newspaper executive Roy Brown to win the GOP nomination for a seat being vacated by Democratic Rep. Tony Hall. He is retiring after 24 years to accept the Bush administration's nomination as the ambassador to the United Nations' food and agriculture agencies.
Turner will face Democrat Rick Carne, a former aide to Hall.
Brown moved from the Cincinnati area to Dayton to run and loaned his campaign $1 million. Turner, who had the backing of local and national GOP officials, accused his opponent of trying to buy the election.
Turner ended up with 46,542 votes, or 80 percent, while Brown had 8,287 votes, or 14 percent.
Republicans see the district as an opportunity to increase their edge in the House. Democrats need to gain seven seats this fall to be assured of control.
''We have been outspent, and we have had a relentlessly negative campaign,'' Turner told supporters. ''Our job before us now is to make certain we win this congressional seat in November.''
Political observers said Sawyer's support of the North American Free Trade Agreement could have hurt him in the blue-collar 17th District, whose voters blame NAFTA for job losses. Ryan got many local union endorsements while Sawyer was favored by national unions.
Traficant's impact on the Ohio race isn't yet known. He was convicted in April of 10 counts of racketeering, bribery and tax evasion and is to be sentenced June 27. He faces up to 63 years in prison, but will likely get less than 20 years because of federal sentencing guidelines.
The field also will include Republican Ann Womer Benjamin, unopposed in the primary, and labor leader Warren Davis, also running as an independent.
In the race to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Tim Roemer of Indiana, Republican Chris Chocola and Democrat Jill Long Thompson won their parties' nominations and will face off in the fall.
In the 3rd District of northeastern Indiana, four-term Republican Rep. Mark Souder defeated Paul Helmke, a former three-term mayor of Fort Wayne who was the GOP's nominee for U.S. Senate in 1998.
Republican Dan Burton, seeking his 11th term in Indiana's 5th District, easily defeated challenger George Thomas Holland, a retiree from Rushville. Katherine Fox Carr of Indianapolis beat three other candidates for the Democratic nomination to challenge Burton this fall. By Paul Singer The Associated Press