Stark County voters will see some unfamiliar names — and many of them — on the May primary ballot in the newly drawn 6th Congressional District.
Republican and Democratic voters each will choose among four candidates — all of whom live more than an hour from Canton. At least five of the eight have never been elected to public office.
The candidates are largely unknown in Stark because the county was split into two districts during the redistricting process this year. The southern and eastern portions of the county were added to the 6th Congressional District that stretches along the Ohio border from Marietta to Youngstown, while the remainder became part of the Akron-based 13th Congressional District.
Neither the 6th nor 13th previously touched Stark.
Since the Ohio Redistricting Commission approved the latest map, most of the candidates say they have yet to campaign in Stark.
In Stark County, the 6th Congressional District encompasses Alliance, Louisville, Minerva and the townships of Sugar Creek, Bethlehem, Pike, Paris, Sandy, Osnaburg, Canton, Washington, Nimishillen and Marlboro and nearly all of Perry Township, along with a few wards and precincts of Massillon. The district also includes all of Carroll, Columbiana and Mahoning counties, and a portion of Tuscarawas .
Who is running in Ohio’s 6th Congressional District?
Incumbent Bill Johnson, a Republican from Marietta and a champion of the fossil fuels industry, is seeking his seventh two-year term in Congress.
The other candidates are: Republicans John Anderson, Michael Morgenstern and Gregory Zelenitz; and Democrats Martin Alexander, Louis G. Lyras, Eric S. Jones and Shawna Roberts.
The Repository reached seven of the eight candidates. Roberts couldn’t be reached for comment.
Bill Johnson: ‘I don’t think we should be spending money we don’t have.’
Johnson, a 67-year-old married father of four and grandfather of six, said he moved to Poland, Ohio, in 2006 to take a job as chief information officer at automotive electronics company Stoneridge.
Johnson was born in Roseboro, North Carolina, but grew up in many areas of the country because his stepfather was in the Air Force, where Johnson himself would serve for about 27 years before retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 1999.
After being elected to his first term in 2010, Johnson said, he moved to Marietta to be near his mother-in-law and be in a more central location of the prior 6th District.
While Johnson did not cite any connections to Stark County, he said he would be proud to honor the legacy of the county’s late congressman Ralph Regula by representing part of the county.
“I’m extremely excited about 130,000 new people that I’ve got to get to know in Stark County,” he said, adding that he’s prepared to take up the mantle of being an advocate for extending the U.S. Route 30 expressway to Columbiana County.
Johnson said he’s a staunch conservative who’s willing to set partisanship aside to get things done. He cites his membership in the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus.
“I don’t think we should be spending money we don’t have. I don’t think we should borrow money from China,” Johnson said. “I believe in the Second Amendment, and I support the Second Amendment rights of the American people. I’m pro life. I believe life starts at conception. And so I’ve never given up my conservative roots. But at the same time, I learned as a business owner and my time in the military, I don’t get my way all the time. … You have to be able to sit down and talk with people that may not see the world through the same lens as you do.”
He said the key to addressing inflation is for Congress to pass a budget where it doesn’t spend money the country doesn’t have, blaming a surplus of stimulus assistance devaluing the dollar.
Johnson, a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said he played a key role in getting a bill pass to stymie the Obama administration and stop it from shutting down underground coal mining. And he, along with Sen. Rob Portman, R-Cincinnati, pushed to get President Franklin Roosevelt’s D-Day prayer on the World War II Memorial.
Johnson said while he believes in taking care of the planet, he supports an energy future where fossil fuels continue to play a prominent role.
“The wind and sun are not going to power America’s energy grid,” he said. “We can’t run our economy on that weather dependent energy.”
He said if re-elected, his top priorities would be restoring America’s energy independence and continuing to provide a high level of constituent services.
More details: https://billjohnsonleads.com.
John Anderson: ‘I’d go there as a warrior.’
Anderson, 70, a Republican, was born and raised in Youngstown and attended Youngstown State University.
He now lives in Enon near Dayton and shrugs off questions of why he’s running to be congressman of a district far from where he now lives. He conceded he’s likely to lose in his sixth attempt to run for Congress.
“I’m from Northeast Ohio. That’s my home. I want to go back and represent those people … That’s my culture. That’s my home,” he said, stressing that he’s a loyal Cleveland Browns fans who attends every home game.
Anderson said he moved to be near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and he served as a logistics and acquisitions manager supporting the Air Force for 40 years. Anderson said he left his job because he refused to get vaccinated for COVID. He said he would live in the 6th District, should he be elected.
Anderson said if elected, he would seek a limit of three two-year terms for U.S. representatives and two six-year terms for U.S. senators. He also would support a balanced budget amendment where the federal budget would be balanced within five years, with a mix of additional tax revenue and cutting spending by closing bases overseas that don’t affect national security, cleaning up the military acquisition process and eliminating all “duplicative” social service programs.
The Youngstown native said he backs a national sales tax that would replace the federal income tax but those below the poverty level would be refunded the tax.
And he backs deploying the military to seal the border against people trying to enter the country illegally.
Calling Johnson a “get along” Republican in name only, Anderson said, “everything about our way of life is under attack by the radical left, Democratic Party. … I’d go there as a warrior and beat them down and not allow this country to be destroyed. He does not have the guts or the taste for that kind of warfare.”
More details: https://www.andersonforcongress.com
Michael S. Morgenstern: ‘I’m a public servant.’
Morgenstern, 33, born in Salem and a 2008 Columbiana High School graduate, said he doesn’t like to talk in detail about his difficult years transitioning from serving in the U.S. Marines for five years and doing two tours in Afghanistan to a civilian life.
He tried attending college. He also tried to sell life insurance, but without divulging specifics, he said he discovered fraud. Morgenstern, who now lives in Poland, said he’s been so poor, he couldn’t afford to pay for liability insurance for his car.
He said the last few years, he’s been a self-employed low-voltage technician installing security systems and cameras.
Like the alarms he’s installed warning of an intruder, Morgenstern saw former President Donald Trump as warning him and others about corruption and how some Americans have deviated from traditional American values.
Morgenstern said if elected, he would support limits of three two-year terms for U.S. representatives and two six-year terms for U.S. Senate. But he would push to essentially legalize medical marijuana at the federal level. He said medical marijuana helps him to deal with his post-traumatic stress disorder that resulted from his time in Afghanistan and it helps others overcome pain and stabilize people’s metabolism.
“I have no problem terming myself out because I’m not a politician. I’m a public servant,” he said.
More details: https://morgensternforcongress.com.
Gregory M. Zelenitz: ‘Let’s make America sane again.’
Zelenitz, 66, of Belmont said he was born in Wheeling, West Virginia. At age 4, his family moved to St. Clairsville, the county seat of Belmont County. He’s lived in the county since.
Since he graduated from the local St. John’s High School in 1973, Zelenitz said, he’s worked in fiberglass repair, built boats, owned a salvage yard, sold automotive parts and since 2004, he’s owned a real estate and auction business.
“I’ve never had a guaranteed check. I’ve always had to live my life. … I lie awake at night wondering where the next dollar is going to come from,” he said. “I’ve been self employed my entire life.”
Zelenitz said his campaign slogan is “Let’s make America sane again.”
“I see this incredible insanity going on this country with everything,” he said. “Stuff with sexuality. ‘There’s more than male and famale’ teaching the little kids in school this sort of thing. This inflation we’ve got today. This ‘How this electric car is going to save the planet.'”
Zelenitz said if elected, he would support legislation to quash any regulations by the Biden administration that limit the ability of companies to extract oil and gas and transport it to market. He also supports policies that promote the cleanest and most efficient ways to burn coal. He said bringing down energy prices is the key to tamping down inflation.
“You can’t make aluminum with solar power or wind power,” he said. “Even if (fossil fuels) cause carbon emissions (that lead to climate change), you still can’t just shut everything off. You can’t let people freeze and (have) people in the dark. It’s a nice idea to save the planet but what expense of all life?”
Zelenitz also said he would support letting immigrants into the country to help care for the elderly and people with disabilities.
Eric S. Jones: ‘If more people in our community have extra spending cash, we’re going to get more private businesses started.’
Jones, 31, a Democrat and Youngstown resident, said he’s an information technology developer in the steel industry. He’s engaged to be married in September.
Jones said he got his start in politics when he volunteered to support Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008. He got his master’s degree in computer information systems from Youngstown State in 2013.
“A large part of the reason I’m running is I see all these people working hard,” he said. “They’re doing everything they’re supposed to. Everything society is telling them what they’re suppose to do and they’re just not getting ahead.”
Jones said if elected, he supports reducing the interest rate on government-funded student loans to 0%, preventing people who work overtime hours from being taxed at a higher rate, eliminating taxes on Social Security, eliminating the reduction in Social Security benefits due to getting pension benefits, and banning members of Congress from being lobbyists for at least 10 years.
“If more people in our community have extra spending cash, we’re going to get more private businesses started,” he said.
More details: https://www.voteericjones.com.
Louis Lyras: Supports federal incentives to bring business to inner cities
After getting his degree in biology from Ohio State University in 1972, Lyras, a Youngstown native and Campbell resident, started a long career in the construction industry where he started his own company, Corcon.
The company employs anywhere from 10 to 200 people depending on the project phase, providing protective coating to large bridges around the country.
Lyras, a married father of six grown children, didn’t directly answer a question why he switched to run as a Democrat after running for Congress in 2020 as a Republican. But he said he shares the same beliefs as many liberals. Those include preserving Social Security, enhancing health care and passing a voting rights bill but he doesn’t oppose fracking. He also supports expanding the use of nuclear energy.
He said if elected, he would look at federal inducements to encourage school districts and government entities such as police and fire departments to consolidate to minimize waste.
“Look at the millions, billions you could save,” he said.
Lyras would support federal incentives to encourage people and businesses to move to inner cities and to encourage companies to re-build their supply chains in the U.S., which he believes would help address inflation. And he wants to see stricter antitrust legislation to prevent consolidation that hurts consumers.
More details: https://louislyras.com.
Martin Alexander: Supports raising the minimum wage
Alexander, 59, graduated from New York University in 1984 and Harvard Law School in 1989. But he tired of the legal field and said he spent several years pursuing acting in the Los Angeles area for much of the 2000s and did background work.
Alexander eventually relocated to Boardman to be near family in 2010. And he said he’s had stints at legal jobs, as well as substitute teaching. Alexander said he’s now an attorney working for Epiq Global, an electronic servicing company.
If elected, he said he would support a federal minimum wage increase to $15 an hour. But he’s concerned that due to inflation, $15 may soon not be enough. He said he would try to get constituents as much federal assistance as possible including earmarks, business loans and housing grants. And he wants the U.S. Postal Service to replace all of its trucks with electric vehicles.
Alexander said most lawmakers should have a legal background. He said that’s what Johnson is lacking. He said he believes the number of bills Johnson has passed into law inadequate, including the bill to place FDR’s D-Day prayer on the World War II memorial.
“It’s a nice gesture,” he said. “But how does that really help people?”
More details: www.martinalexanderforcongress.com.
Shawna Roberts: ‘Working-class mom.’
Roberts, who lives in Belmont, was the Democratic nominee who unsuccessfully challenged Johnson in the 2020 and 2018 congressional elections. She received less than 26% of the vote in 2020 and less than 31% in 2018.
Diane Conroy, chair of the Belmont County Democratic Party, said Roberts is “highly intelligent and she would make a very good candidate.”
On her Facebook campaign page, Robert said she’s a “working-class mom” born in Illinois.
In a posted campaign ad in 2018, she said the mother of five and that she and her husband owned a small beekeeping business for 15 years that they lost during the 2008 recession.
“I’m running because we need regular folks in Congress who know the strength of our communities and our families and who believe in workers,” she said in the video.
More details: https://www.facebook.com/RobertsOhioD6.
Reach Robert at (330) 580-8327 or [email protected] Twitter: @rwangREP