Garrison making right moves in 6th

On the side

Two-faced council: In discussing the elimination of the city’s park and recreation commission, some Youngstown City Council members said a reason to do it is that it was one of the recommendations from last year’s charter-review committee.

Council agreed to put only four of the 17 committee recommendations — including a watered-down version of ward redistricting and another that puts the city in compliance with daylight saving time, which was already being followed — on the November 2012 ballot.

Council members have said they could do others through changes to the “rules of council,” and others could end up on the ballot as early as this year. But more than eight months after the four charter amendments were approved by voters, city council hasn’t had public discussion on any of the other proposals except for Wednesday’s meeting to consider getting rid of the park and recreation commission.

If Jennifer Garrison wanted to show state Sen. Lou Gentile that he would be in for a fight for voters in the Mahoning Valley should he decide to join her as a Democratic candidate for the 6th Congressional District, she accomplished her goal.

Garrison of Marietta, a former state representative, came to Canfield on Tuesday to kick off her bid for the congressional seat in the 2014 election.

Those pledging support to Garrison from the Valley include Mahoning County Commissioners Anthony Traficanti (who considered a bid for the seat) and Carol Rimedio-Righetti, and Columbiana County Democratic Chairman Dennis Johnson, among about a half-dozen others.

Garrison doesn’t have ties to the 6th District’s four upper far-eastern counties — Mahoning, Columbiana, Jefferson and Belmont — so she is working hard to establish them.

Win in those four counties, which happen to be the top four in the district in terms of voters, and you’re going to get elected. The population in most of the other 14 counties is tiny in comparison.

In the 2012 election, 45.2 percent of the district’s vote total came from those four counties.

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, a Republican from Marietta, beat Democrat Charlie Wilson, who’s since died, by 3 percentage points in the four counties in 2012. Johnson won his second two-year term to the House by 6.7 percentage points in the district, which was redrawn last year by Republicans to favor their party.

Gentile, who lives in Steubenville (Jefferson County) hasn’t made a final decision on a 2014 run for the 6th District but is giving it serious thought and talking with key political officials in the district about a potential bid.

Garrison lives in Marietta (Washington County), and spent six years in the Ohio House representing all or part of five counties in the 6th. Those counties represented only 19.8 percent of the 6th District’s entire vote in last year’s congressional race.

Garrison’s strategy to garner support in the most populous counties in the district is sound. If Gentile decides to run, he would count on support in those counties, particularly Jefferson and Belmont. His Senate district includes 10 counties in the district. Columbiana and Mahoning are not among the counties he represents, but he is known and respected in both.

As I’ve previously written, some Democratic officials have told me they don’t think Gentile will run in 2014, but if the seat isn’t held by a Democrat in 2016, he’s likely to seek the position then.

Even before she announced her candidacy last week, Garrison was in the crosshairs of national Republicans, who are trying to paint her as a liberal and a “lap dog” to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

“That’s ridiculous,” Garrison said. “I’m a very independent Democrat.”

Some Democrats have complained over the years that Garrison is too conservative. The Pelosi connection is dubious. Garrison said she was once at an event with Pelosi and hundreds of others, and only saw the minority leader.

However, Garrison has made a significant change on a key issue — same-sex marriages.

Garrison won her first Ohio House race in 2004 criticizing her Republican opponent’s opposition to Ohio’s Defense of Marriage Act. Garrison told me Tuesday that like others, she’s discussed the issue over these past nine years and now supports same-sex marriage. Johnson continues to remain strongly opposed to it.

It will be interesting to see how Garrison’s changed position on the issue plays in the 6th.

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