6th District battle heats up

On the side

Another change: U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan’s communications department is undergoing yet another change.

Jerid Kurtz, Ryan’s press secretary since May 2011, resigned to take a job in the Ohio Democratic Party’s communications office. He’s the second person to quit as Ryan’s press secretary in about a year.

Also, Ryan is on his second communications director in the past year.

But there’s one constant for Ryan of Niles, D-17th: Pat Lowry.

Ryan’s former high school teacher, Lowry, who’s been with the congressman since his successful 2002 campaign and a member of his staff since January 2003, is once again his district press secretary.

In addition to those responsibilities, Lowry is Ryan’s director of outreach and special projects.

In what is expected to be one of only a few competitive U.S. House races in Ohio, incumbent Bill Johnson, a Republican, and Democrat Charlie Wilson are in full campaign mode for the November general election.

Johnson of Marietta, R-6th, had a private fundraiser Thursday in Canfield with Speaker of the House John Boehner.

The speaker and Johnson met earlier that day with GOP supporters, and the media, at Mahoning County Republican headquarters.

This is happening seven months before the election, showing the seriousness of this race.

Redistricting makes the 6th District lean Republican, beginning with this election, when it’s leaned Democratic for the past decade. But it’s not considered a runaway for the incumbent.

A former two-term House member before losing the 2010 election to Johnson, Wilson is trying to use the Boehner event to his advantage.

“Bill Johnson is now being rewarded for being a rubber stamp in a broken machine that is Washington politics,” wrote J.R. Starrett, Wilson’s campaign manager, in a email to the candidate’s supporters.

Johnson has often criticized Wilson for being a “rubber stamp” for former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat.

Also, Wilson of St. Clairsville and Johnson criticized each other over Medicare.

U.S. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan unveiled his proposed budget bill Tuesday that would significantly impact Medicare for those under the age of 55.

Johnson is a supporter of the bill that changes Medicare for those under 55 years old. Without the changes, Medicare would be bankrupt in about a decade, he said.

Wilson said the bill supported by Johnson “would kill Medicare as we know it today.”

He added: “One of Bill Johnson’s favorite comments is ‘Washington is broken.’” He’s been there for more than a year and he hasn’t provided change. He’s voted lock-step with John Boehner.”

Wilson sent an email Thursday to supporters seeking contributions using Johnson’s position on Medicare as the reason to give money to his campaign.

Johnson is as aggressive in his criticism of Wilson.

Johnson said, “It’s laughable that Charlie Wilson would attack the Ryan budget.”

The congressman points out that when Wilson was in the House, the Democrat voted for the president’s health-care initiative, often called “Obamacare.”

Johnson said that law cuts $500 billion from Medicare.

“I’m new at this,” said Johnson. “I’m not a career politician like Charlie Wilson. I’m helping to clean up the messes career politicians like Charlie Wilson made.”

Johnson may be new to politics, but he’s working like a seasoned veteran to make sure he’s re-elected.

Johnson is campaigning throughout the 6th District — even going to places outside the district’s boundaries. That includes three stops today in Youngstown.

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