6th District race contested
Johnson, Blazek seek Republican nod; Lange, Roberts vie for spot on Democrat side
The May 8 primary election in Ohio will feature contested races on the Democrat and Republican ballots for the 6th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Republican incumbent Bill Johnson will face a challenge from Robert Blazek of Bellaire. On the Democrat side, Shawna Roberts of Belmont will face off against Werner Lange of Newton Falls.
On the Republican side, Johnson, 63, of Marietta has held the 6th District seat since 2011. Prior to that, he spent 26 years in the Air Force, retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 1999, was self-employed in information technology consulting and worked at Stoneridge Inc.
Johnson said he believes there has been much accomplished, but there is still much to do.
“We’ve made real progress over the last 15 months in terms of strengthening our economy by reducing Washington red tape on our job creators, providing a tax cut for hard-working families, making our tax code less burdensome and more competitive with the rest of the world, strengthening our military, fighting the opioid epidemic, repealing Obamacare’s individual mandate and cracking down on illegal immigration,” he said. “But, there is still much to do. I’ve served as a strong voice for Eastern and Southeastern Ohio, and the people here deserve strong leadership as we seek a better, stronger, more prosperous America — and a more effective, efficient, and accountable federal government.
Johnson said his experience as an Air Force veteran, a small business owner and in Congress has provided him unique insights that bring value to continuing his work for the district’s residents
“Tax reform and regulatory relief were major victories for our region. We must continue focusing on creating an environment that produces more good-paying jobs — like the critically important energy-related jobs in the coal, oil and natural gas industries that so many in our region rely on, directly and indirectly,” he said.
Johnson said diligence is needed in the fight against opioid and prescription drug abuse and said he has sponsored legislation and will continue “to push for anything that will curtail the opioid epidemic.”
“Finally, we must be prepared to meet new challenges. My military experience gives me pause when looking at the world stage where there is so much unease,” he said. “I’ll use my experience and leadership to ensure that our government is meeting its most fundamental commitment, that of keeping our citizens safe.
Johnson said working across party lines is important in the American government system and noted he is a member of the bipartisan “No Labels/Problem Solvers” working group.
“I’m committed to continue working with both Republicans and Democrats to support common sense solutions, regardless of who gets the credit,” he said.
Johnson said his goals for the next term include giving business owners the tools to create jobs and grow the economy.
While tax reform is helping the wages of workers to increase and encouraging businesses to expand, Johnson said he will continue to work for “common sense solutions that recognize that it isn’t government that creates jobs, but rather, small business owners who should be helped by the federal government rather than hindered by excessive and burdensome regulations.”
Johnson said improvements in national security are needed.
“There is progress to report here, too. Defense Secretary General Jim Mattis spoke to Congress about the critical need to strengthen our national defense, given the challenges and threats we face around the world. Congress listened and recently approved the Bipartisan Budget Act, which provides the biggest year-to-year spending boost ($655 billion) for our military in 15 years,” he said.
Johnson said there is progress in fighting terrorism, with ISIS becoming a case study for the successes that can be achieved by letting American military commanders do what they’re trained to do. Johnson said border security is an important component of national security, and he supported the Bipartisan Budget Act, which provides $14 billion for customs and border protection, as well as a downpayment on the first 90 miles of a border wall.
Infrastructure also is a goal, Johnson said.
“The Ohio River Valley would benefit greatly from a significant investment in our infrastructure: Our roads, bridges, railways, waterways, airports, electric grid, pipelines, water and sewer systems, and broadband access — especially rural broadband deployment,” he said. “This should be a bipartisan issue where we come together to figure out a way to upgrade our infrastructure, and do so in a fiscally responsible way. This is a high priority of mine.”
Johnson said while the budget act makes important initial investments for highways, rail and rural broadband, more must be done to keep the U.S. economy as the strongest in the world.
Asked what he’s most proud of in his time in the House of Representatives so far, Johnson said, “I take great pride in helping those I represent cut through Washington red tape, whether it’s to get the Social Security and Medicare benefits they’re owed, veterans’ benefits they’ve earned but have been wrongly denied or passports that they need expedited. I also continue working with my fellow Republicans, and will continue reaching across the aisle to work with my Democratic colleagues to get the important things done. Neither party has a monopoly on good ideas.”
Johnson said he will continue to stand up for coal miners and their families and “all of us whose homes are heated and lit with coal-fired energy. He noted President Trump signed his legislation, House Joint Resolution 38, into law in 2017, overturning a regulation from the Obama administration that would have put underground coal mining out of business.
He said he successfully advanced policies to enable the nation to export more of its natural gas, and is playing a leadership role on several fronts as a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, advancing rural broadband expansion.
He is a member of the President’s Opioid Commission and introduced legislation to fight addiction by supporting institutions that champion substance use disorder treatment and pain management education to improve how health care professionals are taught about substance use disorder and pain.
“Last month, the full House of Representatives approved legislation that I authored, H.R. 1917, the B.R.I.C.K. Act, to stop a costly and misguided Obama-era policy from putting American brick makers out of business. And, I continue to lead the effort in the House to responsibly export our excess liquefied natural gas to create jobs here at home, and to serve as a check on Vladimir Putin’s economic hold over many of our European allies dependence on Russian energy,” Johnson said.
“Finally, as a veteran, I’m passionate about making sure those who served our nation receive the care and treatment they’ve earned when they come home. To that end, I’ve authored legislation that has since been signed into law that is helping veterans with their medical and disability claims, and is providing important funding to update and renovate veterans’ medical facilities,” he said.
Johnson concluded, “Unlike most members of Congress, I had careers before being elected to office. I served in the Air Force for 26 years, and then started small businesses before becoming the chief information officer of a global manufacturer here in Ohio. I know what it’s like to serve this country in uniform, and know what it’s like to have to make payroll. Those experiences inform the way I go about serving those I represent. Such real-life experiences are not common in Washington.”
His Republican primary opponent, Blazek, 58, of Bellaire, said he hasn’t held public office, but considers that “a significant benefit, for the simple reason that I will have fresh ideas on how to break the cycle of dysfunction in Congress.”
He has operated a small cow and calf operation on his family farm outside Bellaire since 2000, and operated the Majestic Pines golf course, built by his father, Ernest E. Blazek, until 2009. He also is an inventor.
Asked why he’s seeking the office, Blazek responded, “I will bring accountability back to public service, be a catalyst for real change and fight for President Trump’s America First agenda. I will stand by President Trump and not cower to the politically correct. I will not make a career of this office, therefore, I will not be indebted to donors for their money. I will never vote for a law that excludes members of Congress. I will bring my business ingenuity to solving real problems.”
Blazek says he has 19 points to advance Trump’s agenda, some of which include:
¯ Defending America’s sovereignty by securing the borders and enforcing all immigration laws, holding employers of illegal aliens accountable, ending chain migration, visa lotteries and birthright citizenship, eliminating alien data from Census Bureau data used to allocate congressional seats and taking “A hard look at the appropriateness of Saudi Arabia’s network of mosques across the U.S. that may serve as potential safe havens for Islamic extremism.”
¯ Promoting “Americanism” through fair trade, reduction in the size and scope of “the administrative state by codifying President Trump’s regulatory reforms that require two regulations to be eliminated for each new one proposed;” promoting sending power and resources back to the states; eliminating obsolete, ineffective and redundant agencies and programs using zero-based budgeting; reforming civil service to hold government employees accountable; ending U.S. funding for Palestinian refugee resettlement through the United Nations; “push back against groups that use political correctness to shame career politicians into denying our American heritage and destroy our public institutions” and eliminating “the divisive wedge campaign finance has become separating working Americans from donors in their access to representation.”
¯ Demanding equal justice by demanding criminal statutes apply to everyone, including members of Congress, prosecuting violence against law enforcement officers as hate crimes and setting the death penalty for those who murder law enforcement officers.
Asked what the first thing he would do if elected, Blazek said, “Take all of the money and resources now used to raise more money for future races and redirect those resources toward working hand-in-hand with local officials to access federal resources for infrastructure needs throughout the district. New roads, sewer and water lines benefit people in the district more than a career politician’s campaign bank account.”
He would tax violent film and video games to provide more than $400 million a year to pay for the nation’s mental health need.
Further, he said, “I have a plan to address the burgeoning FBI Terrorist Screening Database that will make all of America safer. Fewer than 5,000 of the million-plus records in the Terrorist Screening Database are Americans, therefore we need to begin revoking visas and sending these folks home that are here legally and aggressively deport those who are not.”
He also wants to reform the Veterans Administration to make it more accountable to veterans.
Blazek said he is running for the office at his own expense and is beholden only to voters.
“Everyone in District 6 will have the same access to my office, just like the donors have now. People will not have to wait for a townhall robo-call to speak with me,” he said.
For the Democrat primary, Lange has 35 years of college teaching with a focus on social problems and solutions, as well as 10 years of ordained pastoral ministry. He was a Bernie Sanders delegate to the 2016 Democratic National Convention and said he is a lifetime advocate for peace and justice.
Asked why he is seeking the office, Lange said, “To help create one nation under God, not perpetuate a divided one under the GOP.”
He said his goals include strengthening families through universal single-payer health care; offering paid maternity, paternity and family leaves; child allowances, subsidized childcare and the abolition of childhood poverty. Lange said he would create “jobs with justice” through a massive public investment in the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, develop a Marshall Plan for Appalachian Ohio, a living wage for all employees, facilitation of unionization of workers and public investment in training for clean energy and information technology jobs.
Lange said he would enhance quality education through “Step Up to Quality child care, full and uniform funding of kindergarten through 12th grade education; abolition of private tuition at public colleges and universities, reduction of the “crushing burden of student debt” and “increased investment in education, our first line of defense.”
He calls for protection of the environment through expansion of the role and powers of the Environmental Protection Agency, placing a moratorium on fracking, a commitment to the Paris climate control accords and a shift to green energy.
Under the goal of promoting peace, Lange would see a ban on the sale of assault weapons, a worldwide abolishment of nuclear weapons, reduction of the “bloated military budget,” a cessation of foreign wars and a rejuvenation of the domestic war on poverty.
Asked what would be the first thing he would try to achieve in office, Lange said, “To do my duty, as defined in the Declaration of Independence. That means, for starters, to join the Democratic struggle to rescind the GOP tax scam, which makes the super-rich richer and blows a $1.5 trillion hole in our national debt.”
“I am a public servant who is 100 percent committed to the 99 percent, speaks truth to power fearlessly, pursues peace passionately, advocates for justice tirelessly and who is not for sale,” Lange concluded.
His Democratic opponent, Shawna Roberts, 54, of Belmont, is a political newcomer.
“My husband and I owned our own small commercial beekeeping business until 2009,” she said. “I know the challenges, joys and heartbreak of running your own business, especially in agriculture. As a mother of five, I understand how to listen to the sometimes competing wants and needs of other people and find ways to allocate sometimes scarce resources to help them reach their goals. A representative’s job is all about listening to others, caring about others, and problem-solving. That has been my life for over 20 years.”
Roberts said she has grown tired of “watching the incumbent ignore the needs of the people of the district.”
“The people of this district deserve someone who believes in them and who will fight for them. The folks here have been so kind to my family over the years, through good times and bad, that I decided that I owe it to them to do what I can to make sure regular folks are represented in Congress,” Roberts said.
Her goals would focus on a more diverse and forward-looking economy, with a concentration on infrastructure extending beyond roads and bridges to broadband and cell towers.
“The current infrastructure plan will leave us behind, because we don’t have local money,” Roberts said. “My first goal is ensuring that this district gets the funding it needs to upgrade our infrastructure for the 21st century.
Second, she said she would work to preserve and improve access to quality affordable health care. Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP are essential to the health care of people of the area, she said.
“Medicaid, in particular, is essential to treating folks with substance abuse disorder,” Roberts said. “Moving forward, I am open to innovative solutions to ensure that folks get the health care they need, through a combination of private and public solutions.”
“My third goal is to address and begin solving the opioid crisis,” she said. She said as a representative, her job will be to encourage and facilitate people working at the local level to develop quick response teams and community alternative sentencing centers, as well as “the other problem-solvers working on the frontlines of the opioid crisis.”
Fourth, she said, is to encourage job creation.
“With the right business environment, we can foster small businesses. We need to support labor and protect the rights of workers as well,” Roberts said.
Fifth, she would “protect and nurture quality public schools for our kids.” She said a quality education is one of the most important tools to provide children so that they will thrive as adults.
Roberts expects one of the first battles she would face if elected is about cutting Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP and Social Security “in order to fund the tax cuts that were recently given to the rich.”
“Without these programs, there are people in this district who will die. I intend to fight to keep these programs and make them stronger,” she said.
Rural broadband expansion also would be among her first efforts. She said only about half the households in the 6th District have access to broadband. She said the first step would be to get net neutrality legislation passed to recognize the Internet as the utility it has become. The second step would be to partner with cooperatives, municipalities and private organizations through grants and loans to get broadband to every household in the district.
Asked why voters should choose her, Roberts responded, “I love this region. I love the folks who live here. I know that we are strong and resilient and smart and hard-working. I know that we are capable of amazing things if we get a fair shake. I have lived here in Belmont County for nearly 16 years; I have raised my 5 children here. This is my home, and I want to help it thrive.
If I am elected, I pledge to be available to all my constituents, not just my donors. I will have regular office hours, and I will listen to folks and address their challenges.”