Some in Mahoning Valley see a little of Traficant in Trump

Associated Press

YOUNGSTOWN — Countless former Democrats in Ohio’s blue-collar Mahoning Valley are transferring their adoration for the late Democratic U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

When 76-year-old Connie Kessler casts her vote for the brash and big-haired billionaire Trump, she is sure the equally brash and big-haired Traficant, who died in 2014, will be looking down and smiling.

“Jim Traficant used to yell and holler and scream for the people,” Kessler said. “I mean, he went out there and fought his heart out. And that’s what Trump is doing.”

It’s a pivotal voting trend in the battleground-inside-a-battleground that is Youngstown.

More than 1 million registered Democrats and independents voted Republican in Ohio’s presidential primary, according to state elections data. One of the biggest swings was in Mahoning County, where more than half of Trump’s 11,000-vote primary victory came from crossover voters.

The area’s anti-establishment electorate cheers politicians who ruffle feathers, and brushes off criminal activity – even prison time such as that which Traficant served for taking bribes and kickbacks – as a cost of doing business.

“They look at it as, ‘Jim Traficant may be a criminal, but he’s our criminal,’” said filmmaker Eric Murphy, who grew up in the Valley and recently released the documentary, “Traficant: The Congressman of Crimetown.”

Speak to many in the Valley where steel was once king and they seem to ask, “WWJD?” – “What would Jimbo do?”

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