First-time candidate to seek congressional seat

CANDIDATE — Shawna Roberts has announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Ohio’s 6th Congressional District seat. This is the first political campaign for the 53-year-old Barnesville woman, who said she wants to offer a different choice this year. -- Dave Gossett

STEUBENVILLE — Shawna Roberts of Barnesville brought her first political campaign to Steubenville Thursday evening for a meet-and-greet and to listen to people.

The 53-year-old stay-at-home mom is planning to file her candidacy papers to run for the Democratic nomination for the 6th Congressional District seat held by U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, in the next several days, and is making the rounds through the Eastern Ohio counties.

“I have never run for office before. I have lived in a farmhouse on 25 acres outside of Barnesville and decided to run for the Congress for several reasons. Right now, I don’t know of anyone else running in the Democratic primary. And, I believe the people of Eastern Ohio deserve someone who will listen to them, will talk with them and who wants to represent the district. This will be a challenge, but it is needed. I don’t think Bill Johnson is as accessible as he was early on in his career and he doesn’t have the same interest in the office,” said Roberts.

“I love this district and the people who live here. It is a beautiful place. I started talking with my friends about seeking this office in October and I started visiting different communities shortly before Thanksgiving. I am now visiting different communities. Everyone I have met has been very encouraging.

“A lot of people have told me they are excited I am running, and others are skeptical but still encourage me to run. I have been talking to politicians, activists and the regular people. I am getting a lot of feedback because I have never done anything like this before,” continued Roberts.

“We moved to Belmont County in the summer of 2002. We have been here ever since, raising our five children on our rural property. We brought our beekeeping business with us, though we struggled. Over the years, there were times when we leaned heavily on the generosity of our faith community at Stillwater Meeting of Friends. In 2008, the recession ended our beekeeping business. My husband has worked as a commercial truck driver since, currently with the oil and gas industry. My primary job has been raising our children, and I have worked part-time in the fast-food industry,” related Roberts.

“I have been getting some good advice and have sure met some interesting people in my travels. I know this will be a lot of work and I am facing an incumbent. Right now I am running my campaign on a shoestring. But, if I am the Democratic candidate following the May primary, I believe I will be in a good position.

“Johnson already has $1 million in his re-election campaign, and since the redistricting of the congressional map, this area has been more Republican. But it is time for a change, although I don’t view this as a partisan issue,” said Roberts.

According to Roberts, the No. 1 issue in her fledgling campaign is health care.

“Ohio has an opioid crisis and this area in particular has a serious problem. We need affordable health care. Approximately 23 percent of the district is on Medicaid and some 38 percent of the district is on Social Security or Medicare. I have a friend who is now legally blind because she did not receive proper treatment for diabetes. Cutting funding for health care is not wise,” she noted.

“The economy is the No. 2 issue I hear a lot about in my discussions with area residents. The economy has gotten a little better in the last few years, but it is still not stable. We don’t have a deep economic bench. We need to diversify,” said Roberts.

“And, the third top issue is broadband for our rural areas of the congressional district. Traditionally a lot of rural areas don’t have access to broadband. It is now very important for education, health care and employment. We need access to broadband to be available for everyone. In the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt started the rural electrification campaign to bring electricity to the nation. We need the same type of campaign for broadband,” said Roberts.

“We have a political system that is virtually broke. People were supposed to get together to find a representative for the people. It was a process that was not dominated by lobbyists or big donors or the ultra rich. It is time to start fixing the system. Our current representatives don’t understand the struggles of real people. They don’t understand what it is like to work hard to achieve some success,” remarked Roberts.

“I never planned to run for office. But it feels like the right thing to do. When someone asks me why I am running for Congress I tell them it is because I believe in them. I tell them they are important and what they need is important. I understand what it is like to live here, to struggle and to work hard. I feel pretty good about this campaign.

“There is too much fighting and fussing in Congress. We all need to come together and work to make a difference,” Roberts said.

“We are grateful to the people here for their generosity of spirit and their kindness in making us welcome here. My name is Shawna Roberts, and I am an ordinary citizen, with hopes and dreams, just like you,” she said.