Well folks ... the campaign for Congress has only just begun and already the distortions, half-truths, innuendoes, accusations and the outright lies have started to swirl - some by whisper and some, more disappointingly, in bold print. In a nation where we still enjoy free speech, whom in the world can you believe? One sure way is first-hand knowledge or, if you are not fortunate enough to know the person, to trust someone you know to be honest, not the neighborhood gossip, but someone who will give it to you straight.
Several years ago, I met Bill Johnson for the very first time. I did not know his background, and being a bit disappointed in a previous politician, I was taking my time to get to know this new person running for office. I asked questions, talked with many different people I trusted. I listened to him speak at every possible opportunity at every meeting in which he had a voice and eventually met some of his staff. I then decided to find out firsthand, I got involved with his campaign. I learned a lot that year. The most outstanding quality that I came to admire was his photographic memory. He retained what he read, what he heard and what he had learned from residents in this valley. The man is a quick study, a quick learner a very bright individual.
He was like most of us who have a dream, he had ideas about things that would help him reach voters in Jefferson County, but we gave him other ideas and showed him what is important to the residents of this part of the 6th District. We all agreed if he wanted to win, he would have to put his money and energies where we knew it would make a difference. He listened, took it all into consideration and then changed course.
He listens, he reads, he pays attention to the concerns of his constituents, then he takes action. If he promises to follow through on something, you can go to the bank on that promise. If he shakes your hand in agreement, it's done.
It really bothers me when a political race gets under way and the first thing the challenger does is to try to discredit, distort and make the incumbent look bad. For those who are the "I don't care much about politics type, I just go with the one who gave me a T-shirt," I am truly sorry for you because you have a lot to lose by taking a lazy attitude and potentially making a bad choice. We have had enough of the promises not kept. Johnson has proven that he is "on the job" doing the work he was hired to do.
Case in point on June 29, Jennifer Garrison wrote a guest column criticizing a number of Johnson's votes during his time as our Congressman ("Opponent raises question about Johnson record.") Her accusations of one vote in particular, the Working Families Flexibility Act was a stretch, to say the least. Instead of praising Johnson for voting to allow working moms and dads to earn comp time that they could use in case of a family emergency - or for any reason at all - she makes absurd accusations. What she fails to mention is that this bill would grant the same abilities to private-sector workers that public-sector workers already enjoy. As a taxpayer and former government employee, I can attest this is a wonderful benefit. I was fortunate enough to have used it many times.
I ask that you pay attention to the many times Johnson has been, and continues to be, present in Jefferson County, in this city, visiting the businesses that sustain our county, hearing from those who have lost jobs and helping to invest in our district's future. When asked for help, Johnson got heavily involved in the housing problems in Steubenville. He continues to meet on a regular basis with city and county officials to solve this desperate situation.
In addition, Johnson was one of the first to give $1,000 out of his own pocket to support the restoration of the Grand Theater. He makes time for community events such as the Dean Martin Festival, the Greek Festival and the Jefferson County Fair. These visits are not photo-ops - he's there talking with his constituents, taking notes on important issues like the drug epidemic and shootings in our neighborhoods. Simply put - Johnson is involved and he follows through.
Johnson is everywhere and answers every call. He or his staff make themselves available to contribute and attend important information forums such as the health care forum sponsored and conducted by the Woman's Club of Steubenville last year. He takes to heart our concerns and when you ask about a particular bill in the House, he knows what you are talking about as he calls it by its number. Who does that if they haven't read the bill and gotten familiar with its content?
Now I ask ... what sort of person writes and speaks such negative commentary? Not a secure contender. It is sadly funny - Garrison says she is against negative campaigning, but all she has done is lob innuendo and attacks at Johnson without so much as a word on where she stands on issues. Haven't we had enough of that kind of politics? Can't a person run a campaign on his or her own merits? Tell us what you have done and what you are working on. Promises are just that, promises that can be broken ... we are excessively familiar with that practice.
Before you know it, we will be heading to the polls - let's do our best to get to know the candidates, make our decisions based on fact, experience, honesty, integrity, trustworthiness and love of this community.
Above all, look at what the candidates have done over the last several years. Take into consideration Johnson's earnest, honest desire to make a lasting, positive difference in Jefferson County. That, folks, is the right person for Congress.
(Keagler, a resident of Wintersville, is the Jefferson County re-election chairperson for Bill Johnson.)