State Sen. Lou Gentile said he “gave very serious consideration” to running next year in the Democratic primary for the 6th Congressional District seat, but won’t seek the job.
In an exclusive interview Tuesday with The Vindicator, Gentile, of Steubenville, D-30th, said he believes he can better serve eastern Ohio in the state Senate rather than in the U.S. House.
“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done in Columbus,” he said. “A lot of what happens in Columbus has a major impact on families in my district. I can do the greater good for people in my district by staying in the Ohio Senate.”
The Republican-backed state budget includes “new taxes on the middle class” and cuts state funding to school districts, Gentile said.
Former state Rep. Jennifer Garrison of Marietta is the only announced Democratic candidate for the 6th District seat. She was recruited to run by national Democratic leaders.
Gentile and Mahoning County Commissioner Anthony Traficanti of Poland, who also considered running for the seat and chose not to seek it, were seen as top Demo-cratic challengers.
Traficanti has endorsed Garrison. Gentile said Tuesday it was “premature” to endorse a candidate for the Democratic primary, which is in May 2014.
“I will strongly be supporting a Democrat in the district,” Gentile said.
As for Garrison, Gentile said, “She is a very accomplished attorney and a committed public servant. She is a good candidate.”
Garrison’s candidacy, Gentile said, didn’t “play a factor in my decision” not to run.
Garrison said, “Sen. Lou Gentile is a respected leader, and I look forward to working with the senator in continuing to provide results for the people of eastern Ohio.”
Gentile spent about four or five months considering a run in the 18-county 6th Congressional District, talking to constituents and key political figures.
All but one of the 10 counties in Gentile’s state Senate district are in the 6th Congressional District.
Gentile was the Republicans’ top target last year in the state Senate. The Republican Senate Campaign Committee and the Ohio Republican State Central and Executive Committee contributed close to $1 million to Republican Shane Thompson of St. Clairsville.
Gentile raised $800,000 and won by 4.8 percentage points in a district that went strongly in favor of Republicans in the presidential and U.S. Senate races last year.
The 6th District seat is held by U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, a Republican from Marietta, who will seek his third two-year term next year.
The 6th, which leans Republican, includes all of Columbiana County and the southern and central-western portions of Mahoning County.
National Republicans and Democrats already have involved themselves in the congressional race even though it’s a year from now.