LISBON - The race for Ohio's 6th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives is a rematch. The difference between now and two years ago is Congressman Bill Johnson currently holds the seat he took from former Congressman Charlie Wilson.
Johnson, the Republican candidate, was among many swept into office two years ago. Wilson said he is not bitter about losing, adding he only lost by 3 percent of the vote. He said he is more concerned about going back to get things done.
"My opponent also says Washington is broken, but he doesn't look in the mirror," Wilson said. "I'm not going there to get even with anyone. I'm going there to get things done."
In his short time in office, Johnson said he is proud of his legislative record, which includes bills passing the house with bipartisan support. One of those highlights was the Stop the War on Coal Act, which was passed 233-175 by the house in late September. The act is aimed at helping the coal industry, which is seeing jobs disappear.
"I've got a track record of being able to come to the table and walk away with everyone getting something," Johnson said.
His opponent, Wilson disagrees. Wilson said he has questioned whether Johnson has talked to anyone in the Senate in order to get the bills being passed by the House to move forward, but said Johnson along with other Republicans does not seem to be doing that.
"This 'It's either my way or the highway' doesn't work," Wilson said.
Additionally, Wilson said the Stop the War on Coal Act is very similar to one passed during the time he was in office. However, Johnson claims Wilson did nothing to stop what Johnson calls (President Barack) Obama's war on coal the last two years Wilson was in office, not even by writing a letter about how utilizing less coal was going to affect this area. He also criticized Wilson voting with other Democrats 98 percent of the time.
"It took me less than two years to oppose my leadership more than 100 times," Johnson said of his voting record.
Both men talked about the opportunities the area has in the new natural gas drilling boom. They see new energy development as an opportunity to get a stagnant economy moving again along the Ohio River and across the country.
"I believe Americans can do anything," Johnson said. "We can solve our problems. We are innovators. We can do this without the federal government telling us what to do at every turn."
Johnson, 57, of Marietta, continues to criticize The Affordable Care act, known to critics as Obamacare, and Wilson, who voted for it. Johnson said the bill, which was more than 1,000 pages long, was jammed through without a single Republican vote. Further, Johnson said the health care bill will hurt 36,000 seniors in the 6th District alone if it goes entirely into effect.
Johnson would like to see the health care bill repealed and reformed, keeping some parts about non-discrimination against those with pre-existing conditions and allowing those age 26 to remain on their parents health plan. However, he would expand health savings accounts and create tort reform, which should allow doctors to spend more time with patients and less in the courtrooms.
Wilson, 69, of St. Clairsville, points out there were things in the bill he disagreed with also, but also believed it was a good first start. He likes the idea of 31,000 children with pre-existing conditions in the 6th District receiving health insurance and 116,000 seniors in the district, who he said now have affordable exams and healthcare. Additionally, Wilson said the bill saves area hospitals $49 million in bad debts.
"The thing you need to realize was that was the hardest vote I took," Wilson said. "I prayed about it. I thought about it. I couldn't vote for half the bill."
One of the arguments Wilson and Johnson's campaigns seem to have is over which one of them wants to kill Medicare. Johnson claims Wilson's support of The Affordable Care Act dips into Medicare to pay for the health care bill. Wilson criticizes Johnson's support of Paul Ryan's budget bill which Democrats are criticizing as killing Medicare. Still both men believe Medicare needs to be adjusted for its survival.
Johnson said he co-sponsored a budget where seniors 55 and older will not see a change to their Medicare. He does not believe Medicare or Social Security to be entitlements, noting the seniors have paid into those programs. Johnson also said he sponsored a Social Security preservation act, a way to save Social Security which is heading toward bankruptcy.
Additionally, Wilson criticizes Johnson's support of the Ryan budget, which he said cuts Pell Grants by 45 percent, making it harder for 10 million students to go to college. He also criticized the increase of interest rates for student loans from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.
When it comes to education, Johnson is critical of a system which instead of producing students excited about learning is turning education into a business. He said he agrees with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in his efforts to sit down with teachers and "empower" them to create better schools.