Former Democratic Rep. James Traficant, who in September was released from a federal prison after serving seven years on a bribery and racketeering conviction, told CNN Tuesday he will launch an independent bid to return to Congress.
"I will be running for congress...as an independent," Traficant told CNN's Kyra Philips. "I have been a Democrat all my life, and quite frankly I am disgusted with both parties."
One thing Traficant did not reveal in the quasi-launch of his candidacy this morning was the district in which he intends to run. The two most likely places for him to land would be in the Ohio 6th (currently represented by Democrat Charlie Wilson) or his old district, the Youngstown-based 17th district.
The current incumbent in the 17th, Democrat Tim Ryan, has had the unique experience of having Traficant as an Independent challenger. Recall that in 2002, Traficant was expelled from the House. Undaunted, he ran as an Independent in the Fall, losing badly to Ryan and garnering just 15% of the vote.
Conventional wisdom would probably suggest that a Traficant Indie candidacy, based on his previous tenure in Congress as a Democrat, would siphon votes from either Ryan or Wilson (depending on where he lands). However, as a scathing editorial in the Youngstown Vindicator pointed out of the weekend, Traficant has also been cuddling up to the Teabagger contingent since his release from prison (there is a YouTube online of him speaking at a Tea Party rally less than two weeks after his release). This might imply that he could draw Republican and anti-Dem Independent voters.
Of course, given his fall from grace and his seven years in prison, it is also at least equally likely that his impact on the election cycle (outside of the entertainment value of his candidacy, of course) will be negligible.