Two Democrats are hoping to win their party's vote in the May 6 primary election for the opportunity to run against Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson for Ohio's Sixth Congressional District seat.
Marietta resident Jennifer Garrison and Albany resident Greg Howard are both working through the final weeks before Democratic voters will choose who they want to represent the party in November.
With both focused on job creation and their own specialized plans and skill sets, both challengers hope to bring change to what they say has become a dysfunctional Congress.
Garrison, 427 Fifth St. in Marietta, already has some experience in the political realm, serving the 93rd District for the Ohio House of Representatives from 2005 to 2010.
She formed the Southeast Ohio Landowners Association and currently is the president of Jennifer Garrison LLC., a legal practice she opened in 2011.
May 6 primary election at a glance
Ohio's Sixth Congressional District
Democrats challenging Republican Bill Johnson
427 Fifth St., Marietta
Founder of Southeast Ohio Landowners Association
President of Jennifer Garrison LLC
Husband: Russ; Children: Emily, Sam, Max
41329 Gibson Ridge, Albany
Meigs County farmer
Manufacturer of Gibson Ridge Portable Egg Washer
"I am running because I think Washington is broken, and I think we need to stop electing people who are just talking all rhetoric and who do not to work together," Garrison said. "Our current congressman is not going a good job of that, as the votes he has made have not reflected what is best for our area."
Garrison has played roles in local economic development already and plans to carry those focuses to office.
"Economic development is the most important issue; making sure people can make a living wage and have good jobs," she said.
For SEOLA, Garrison has negotiated 13 large lease deals over 80,000 acres for use in the oil and gas industry to provide financial benefits and help bring jobs to the area while remaining environmentally responsible.
"We need to make sure we do it in a way that's respective of the land and water while also making sure that landowners get their share," she said. "It can be a win-win for all."
Garrison said if elected, she plans to go to work right away in continuing to negotiate lease deals to help landowners and industry benefit financially and economically.
"It's that knowledge base that I can take to Congress for all of the people of this district that is very valuable," she said.
In coordination with jobs and finances, Garrison said she will support saving Medicare benefits, and said she will also support any extension of unemployment benefits that result from company lay-offs.
"Congress needs to be willing to work together, and I have a history of being able to do that on either sides of the aisle," she said. "Congress is not there to instill fear and polarization in people among different parties."
Garrison also said she has plans to look into Citizens United, a court case that ruled in favor of the concept of a corporation having the same First Amendment rights as an individual, an act that she believes has clouded transparency in Congress.
"Corporations are not people. We need to take a look at Citizens United and see what we can do to make sure there is transparency and accountability in these groups," she said.
Howard, of 41329 Gibson Ridge in Albany, currently runs a farm in Meigs County and manufactures the Gibson Ridge Portable Egg Washer, along with past work as an mechanical and civil engineer for power plants and government bases.
Despite never having served in an elected office, Howard said he decided to run after he found there was a true lack of action taken by government officials to improve the area.
"I've never run for anything before, I'm just a worker bee," he said. "I want a chance to be in Congress so I can lobby for the American people."
Howard said his main focus is the lack of jobs, a problem that he says is just one symptom of a Congress that is too afraid to act because of the money tied to their campaigns.
"After World War II, industry, government and labor were all sharing benefits, and at that time, one wage was enough to live on, and now it's not," he said. "Everything has derailed now, and we have to fix it."
Howard said he plans to look into ways to build jobs in the area through local and small partnerships, rather than just relying on corporations to provide jobs.
Using the government to help foster entrepreneurship in individuals and small businesses and building work co-op opportunities with local industry to provide jobs are all included in what Howard calls his blueprint plan, along with improving the minimum wage.
"We have a lot of people high on their skill set, where they used to be working in factories and now they're working at Walmart or they're just a day-laborer," Howard said. "They used to be a part of real economy, and now they're not because minimum wage does not bring you onto the radar."
Howard also said he wants to focus on infrastructure in the area in order to move toward a better local economy.
"We have 10-ton bridges built in the 1930 that haven't been rebuilt, and can't hold anything bigger than a six-wheeler," he said. "We've stifled our growth by infrastructure."
Bringing roadways and bridges all up to highway standards, along with bringing more high-speed Internet and up-to-date technologies into rural areas to foster economic growth are all points that Howard wants to look into if put in office.
Other issues, like Medicare and Social Security, Howard said, are non-negotiable.
"(Those) are important to a lot of people, and I will not cut into it if elected," Howard said. "That's not government money, that's the people's money."