By David Skolnick
Recruited by national Democratic leaders to run for the 6th Congressional District seat, former state Rep. Jennifer Garrison said she will seek the position in the 2014 election.
“Both political parties have not focused enough on jobs, job security, and the kitchen-table issues that our neighbors and families face everyday,” said Garrison of Marietta in an exclusive statement Thursday to The Vindicator. “Whether it’s been improving education funding for rural Ohio, keeping utility rates low for consumers and manufacturers, or demanding transparency from the Legislature, I have a track record of getting results and look forward to this campaign.”
The 6th District takes in 18 counties including all of Columbiana County as well as eight Mahoning County townships — Canfield, Beaver, Springfield, Ellsworth, Berlin, Smith, Goshen and Green.
Garrison picked up a key endorsement: Mahoning County Commissioner Anthony Traficanti of Poland, who was eyeing a potential run in the 6th in 2014.
Traficanti said he recently spoke with Garrison, and is supporting her congressional bid.
Traficanti said he opted not to run for Congress because campaigning in the district that snakes along the eastern and southeastern portions of the state — about 300 miles from Canfield to Lucasville in Scioto County — would take too much time away from his job as commissioner.
“I really like her a lot,” Traficanti said of Garrison. “I’ll support her. She’s an excellent candidate.”
Garrison said Traficanti’s “knowledge of the [Mahoning Valley] will be indispensable.”
Garrison’s campaign committee is in the process of filing the required paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to raise money, and started calling supporters Thursday to discuss her candidacy. She will make two campaign stops Tuesday, one in Marietta and the other at 4 p.m. at the Hampton Inn on Ironwood Boulevard in Canfield.
State Sen. Lou Gentile of Steubenville, D-30th, is still giving serious consideration to run in the Democratic primary for the 6th District seat but hasn’t made a final decision.
“I’m interested in talking to the constituents in my district and getting a good read on whether I should run,” he said. “My decision will be largely made by those in [elected] leadership roles and my constituents in the district.”
Gentile’s district includes 10 counties in the 6th. Gentile was the Republican’s No. 1 target last year in the state Senate. Republicans gave nearly $1 million to the campaign of his opponent. Gentile won the race in the Republican-leaning district by about 5 percentage points.
Whoever emerges as the Democratic primary winner would face two-term U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, a Republican from Marietta, in the general election. The district is a Republican area. In 2012, Johnson beat Democrat Charlie Wilson, who has since died, by about 7 percentage points, and failed GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney beat President Barack Obama by 12 percentage points in the 6th.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recruited Garrison, a three-term state House member who didn’t seek re-election in 2010, to run for the position.
The DCCC, which recruits and raises money for Democrats seeking U.S. House seats, invited Garrison in May to Washington, D.C., to meet with national Democratic officials to discuss the district and ways to win the race. She was among only six potential House candidates nationwide invited to that event.
While in the Ohio House, Garrison represented all or part of five counties in the 6th, and served in leadership as majority floor leader.
Since leaving politics, Garrison, an attorney, founded the Southeastern Ohio Landowners’ Association, which represents landowners who lease oil and gas rights with her clients receiving over $250 million.
“I’m proud of the association’s efforts to help working people, and I want to take that attitude to Washington,” she said.
In response to Garrison’s decision, Mark Weaver, Johnson’s campaign spokesman, said the congressman “is focused on helping to bring back America’s economy and reigning in the IRS. He knows next year he’ll have to begin campaigning for re-election. He’ll gladly compare his record against any candidate, including Jennifer Garrison.”