Meantime, Betras, who impresses you as an unflinching free spirit, says he couldn't care less about what the off-the-page critics are saying about his choice. It is a sort of Youngstown gift of self-styled political immunity that has been around for a long time.
"This is big for the Mahoning Valley," Betras told the Youngstown Vindicator. "Anytime I can get powerful people to the Valley, I'll do it. We'll have him in a room with Valley people to discuss our issues and concerns. It can only help the area having him here," Frank says of the visit by Frank (Clue: Frank, a Democrat, is chairman of the House Financial services Committee, through whom many blessings can flow.)
There's also a congressional campaign going on in Betras' 17th district involving Tim Ryan, the popular Democratic congressman , and a once-widely popular ex-congressman, Jim Traficant, the 69-year-old convicted felon who completed a seven- year prison term ( bribery and corruption) in time to file as an independent candidate. There's also a Republican candidate, Jim Graham, a Cortland pharmacist, that Betras refuses to discuss, saying only: "I don't like Republicans!"
Need I mention that it is a heavily Democratic district? Betras and some other observers believe Ryan is heading for victory, but concede that Traficant still maintains a die-hard corps or loyalists. And there may be complications. David Skolnick, the Vindicator's political writer, says that although Traficant hasn't been on the ballot for eight years , "he certainly has his followers" but hasn't made anypersonal appearances in the District lately.
There may be a name ID for Graham, Skolnick says, that could have confusion value. Graham's cousin, also named Jim Graham, is the UAW president in the district who is supporting Ryan.
Over at Youngstown State University political science Prof . Keith Lepak enthusiastically says he's a great fan of Traficant and would easily vote for him - but can't. "I live in Sharon, Pennsylvania," he says.
Traficant, Lepak says, is an "archetypical representative of the district. He's fantastic!" Lepak says he admires Traficant's "great political skills" and his ability to shake things up. On the other hand, Lepak describes Ryan as a "nice young man but a stuffed shirt."
Even if that were true - and I haven't found it so in my few meetings with Ryan - I don't think it will cost him the election against a convicted felon running on nothing more than nostalgia for his good old days and a what's-his-name Republican - even for the Youngstown district where there are occasionally a few surprises.