Lots of laughs in 6th District race

On the side

‘A friend’: Justice Yvette McGee Brown, the lone Democrat on the Ohio Supreme Court, said she will be sorry to see Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton leave the court.

Justice Stratton is retiring at the end of the year with two years left on this term. She’s been on the court since 1996.

“She’s not just a colleague, she’s a friend,” Justice McGee Brown said.

The two of them have known each other for about 20 years when they were both judges in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.

Justice McGee Brown said when she was weighing a potential appointment in January 2010 to the Supreme Court by outgoing Gov. Ted Strickland, Justice Stratton was the second person to call her and encourage her to accept it.

Justice McGee Brown said Justice Stratton joked that she was the only Democrat she would ever encourage to join the Supreme Court.

First it was the campaign of U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-6th, and the National Republican Congressional Committee on the attack against ex-U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson.

They wanted to know if Wilson, a Democrat from St. Clairsville, was supporting President Barack Obama, a fellow Democrat.

“Who else would I support, Mitt Romney?” was Wilson’s answer. Rather than explain why he supported Obama, Wilson criticized Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, and drew a parallel to Johnson, saying the two have made careers “of shutting down manufacturing plants,” and that neither will “be successful reaching out to the voters of our district.”

This came after a somewhat unusual strategy by Johnson’s campaign to tie Wilson to ex-Attorney General Marc Dann, whose misfeasance forced him to resign in May 2008. Dann paid $500 to attend a fundraiser for Wilson. Wilson’s campaign eventually returned the money.

It was a stretch to tie Wilson and Dann so closely together.

Not to be outdone, J.R. Starrett, Wilson’s campaign manager, sent an email Tuesday to supporters with the subject line: “Bill Johnson for vice president?”

In the email, Starrett wrote, “Is it really out of the question that Bill might be on Gov. Romney’s short list of potential vice presidential candidates?”

Of course, the answer is no.

But that didn’t stop Starrett from sending me an email on Wednesday asking “ ... Is it really that far out of consideration that Johnson is being considered?”

Starrett then wrote that TV late-night talk-show host Conan O’Brien “is getting in on” this when he joked in his Tuesday monologue that “Romney’s running mate will be a white male from Ohio.”

Johnson beat Wilson, a two-term House member, in the 2010 general election.

Mark Weaver, Johnson’s campaign spokesman, said, “While Congressman Charlie Wilson and his staff are staying up late to watch comedians make fun of Ohio, Bill Johnson gets up everyday to meet with people in Eastern Ohio who’ve lost their jobs because of Barack Obama and Charlie Wilson’s job-killing policies. Charlie Wilson’s strong support for Obamacare and his endorsement of Barack Obama [are] nothing to laugh about.”

As for interest in being the vice president, Weaver said, “The only thing Bill Johnson is interested in right now is seeing the people of Eastern and Southeastern Ohio get back to work.”

Starrett responded by saying, “Congressman Bill Johnson is the only one laughing right now and he is laughing all the way to the bank. Congressman Johnson continues to discuss Washington, while ignoring the fact that he has lost over 700 postal services jobs and countless manufacturing jobs during his time in Washington representing the constituents of the 6th District. Here’s the punchline, like Romney, Bill Johnson made millions in the private sector by outsourcing American manufacturing jobs.”

The race for the 6th District — which takes in 17 counties including all of Columbiana and southern Mahoning — is among the most competitive in the country. With the escalating rhetoric, it’s also one of the most entertaining.

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