COLUMBUS — Two additional Democrats, both women, have entered the contentious race to replace retiring U.S. Sen. George Voinovich, and one contentious ex-congressman opted to stay on the sidelines.
The sudden appearance of Traci “T.J.” Johnson and Charlena Bradley could deliver a blow to the lagging campaign of Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner.
Brunner is running without the backing of the state party or the national Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Her last financial filing showed about $60,000 in the bank, compared with Democratic rival Lee Fisher’s $1.8 million.
Still, Brunner has refused to leave the race despite public and private pressure and Gov. Ted Strickland’s endorsement of Fisher, his lieutenant governor and recent polls showed her with about half of the total vote.
Johnson and Bradley could divide the female vote, which had been favoring Brunner over Fisher.
Meanwhile, a deadline to run in the congressional Democratic primary came and went with no word from former U.S. Rep. James Traficant, a congressman who spent years in prison for corruption and has vowed he will return to politics.
The irreverent Traficant, who was released from prison in September, has warned for weeks that he may try to unseat one of the Democrats representing the economically struggling Youngstown area.
Traficant did not respond to phone calls or release a statement after the deadline passed.
Elections officials in the three counties comprising his former district said the former congressman had failed to show up.
Traficant, 68, was convicted in a raucous trial in 2002 of bribery and racketeering for accepting bribes from businessmen and taking kickbacks from staff members.
He then was expelled from Congress, only the second House member since the Civil War to be ousted for unethical conduct.
Traficant still has until May to decide whether he will run as an independent.
One of Congress’ most colorful members, Traficant was famous for his wild hair and penchant for “Star Trek” references, including brief floor speeches typically punctuated with the phrase, “Beam me up, Scotty.”
Traficant is still serving three years of probation, during which he must report regularly to a probation officer and get permission before traveling outside northern Ohio — which could hamper his efforts to campaign.
Since his release, Traficant has proudly declared himself a supporter of the national “tea party” movement, a group motivated by anger over the growth of government and Obama’s policies.