LISBON — U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson will have three men challenging him in the Republican party primary on May 3 — John Anderson, Michael Morgenstern and Gregory Zelenitz.
Johnson, R-Marietta, 67, has served the Sixth Congressional District since 2011. Raised on the family farm and retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel with the U.S. Air Force after about 26 years of service, he has been the recipient of the Air Force Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal.
Unlike prior years, Johnson has seen his district shift and it now includes more of Mahoning and Stark counties.
“I’m not at all unhappy with the new territory,” Johnson said, noting that although the new areas are adding a lot of new people, the campaign is in the process of getting to know those folks and finding their concerns very similar to the other counties in the district.
Johnson said everyone is concerned about the inflation, which he calls a tax on every American. He notes that inflation has now risen to 8.5 percent, which is the highest in 40 years.
“How do you go from the best economy in 50 years to having the worst economy in 40 years,” Johnson said, noting that unlike the recent push by President Joe Biden to blame Russian President Vladimir Putin this inflation began long before the war.
Johnson said he is in favor of utilizing the resources of the coal and natural gas rich areas in Ohio, adding it is important to put American energy resources back into play. Johnson also serves on both the House Energy and Commerce Committee, a member of the House Shale Caucus and the Co-Chairman of the House Natural Gas Caucus.
With democrats in charge of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Johnson said it has been difficult to get things done, but republicans are holding them accountable for stopping the permits for obtaining energy on public lands. While the country was energy independent in 2019, Johnson said the changes made have led to a deficit and until recently America was importing 500,000 barrels a day from the Russians.
Energy deficit in natural gas and the war in Ukraine will contribute to food shortages here, Johnson said. Fertilizer has components made from natural gas and the majority of fertilizer comes from Russia and the Ukraine. Not only will it be difficult to get food items made of grain, but the animals we use for meat are fed grain.
Some of the other things Johnson is working toward is broadband expansion for the rural areas of the district and the expansion of U.S. Route 30 from the part of Stark County now in his district into Columbiana County. He is concerned about the border crisis and the national security crisis.
He talks about the importance of looking for bipartisan solutions and has had 20 of his bills signed into law during his time in congress. A member of the Problem Solvers Caucus, Johnson said he works with reasonable democrats to get things accomplished.
While Johnson sees education as more of a state and local issue, he said he supports parents and local schools making the decisions for their children based on their knowledge of what children need. He supports the rights of parents to choose where they send their child to school and to make appearances at board meetings while they try to keep on top of what is happening in the classroom.
“Too often we wash our hands and say you go build the American dream for us,” Johnson said. “We should be going to school board meetings and know what our future leaders are learning.”
John Anderson, who spent more than 40 years as a civilian contractor working with U.S. Air Force military projects, said he knows where the waste is from government contracts and spent his career cutting it.
A proud native of the south side of Youngstown, Anderson, 70, said he is concerned about the current situation in the country.
“We’re in a desperate situation,” Anderson said. “This is the most corrupt, inept government, we’ve ever had.”
After graduating from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1969 and Youngstown State University in 1974, Anderson worked a year with Youngstown police before going to the Wright Patterson Air Force base in 1977, where he was involved in acquisition logistics and sustainment. He worked with various airplane contracts through the years – the F-16’s, B-1 and C-17’s – making sure the planes were ready, moving equipment as needed and making certain the replacement parts for the planes were available with minimal delays.
He said the leadership he worked with in the military through the years expected results and no excuses, adding “failure was not an option.” Anderson said he was not always popular when he went around the current system to make things happen. If elected to congress, he plans to use his expertise to cut costs and waste, outsourcing jobs to private contractors if the government’s current system cannot compete.
“If you elect me, I will be there for you,” Anderson said. “I was there for the military and I will be there for my country… We must impeach (President Joe) Biden and (Vice President Kamala) Harris, right away. They are not enforcing our laws.”
Anderson said he is concerned about the illegal immigrants invading the country and that the current leadership does not understand that the country is not ready for green energy.
“If green energy is so great,” Anderson said, “let it compete in the free market. They are destroying our economy.”
He points to the U.S. being $10 trillion in debt in 2010, a number that has now increased to $32 trillion with $6 trillion of that happening in the last two years. With more money being placed into circulation, Anderson predicts it will only get worse.
He also said the country must stay out of no-win wars, protect children from the “child abuse” of wokeness of teaching sex education to small children and critical race theory.
“I’m a civil servant, not a politician,” Anderson said. “I’m sure Mr. (Bill) Johnson is a nice man. I’ve been through wars. We’re at war.”
He points out the incumbent wins 98 percent of the time, but if people re-elect Johnson then nothing will change.
“I’m one of you,” Anderson said. “I grew up in this district. Mahoning County is my home. If everyone in Mahoning County and Columbiana County, every Republican, Independent and Democrat conservative votes for me, I win. I’m your hometown son. I grew up in the south side of Youngstown.”
Michael S. Morgenstern
Michael S. Morgenstern, 33, of Poland, is a Columbiana High School graduate who served in the Marines from 2008 to 2013.
He was deployed to Afghanistan in 2012. Now he is employed as a low voltage technician utilizing the skills he learned during his time in the military.
“I saw the need,” Morgenstern said of his decision to run for the U.S. Congress. “There is no honesty in congress. I believe we need to have honesty.”
He took a sign from God that he needed to run and he has a list of several things he believes needs to be accomplished.
First he sees a need for term limits and has signed a declaration that he will pursue it. He wants to see congress limited to three terms (six years) in the house of representatives and two terms (12 years) for senators for a total of 18 years.
“I don’t believe in career politicians,” Morgenstern said, noting Johnson has been in office for 12 years at the end of this term and those currently in there have no incentive to push for term limits.
He also is in favor of reforming the schedule one status of marijuana. He believes marijuana should be a schedule three substance, where lower level drugs with less potential for abuse are placed.
While Ohio is one of the 37 states that allows for medical marijuana, Morgenstern feels that it still creates contradictions. For instance, Morgenstern said he has a medical marijuana permit and a concealed carry permit. Yet those things are not compatible for “many good citizens living their best lives.”
He said he is both pro-life and pro-second amendment and believes in a southern border wall or reform for immigration.
Additionally, he believes those in congress should be required to stop trading all public stocks while in public office because they have access to information the rest of the public does not know. Currently, it gives them the ability to personally benefit from “insider secrets,” he said.
Morgenstern is also concerned about the prevention of human trafficking, noting that Ohio is one of the states with higher rates of this “disgusting” behavior. He personally has bought Mace for family members and believes people need to be aware and prepared before something happens. He also commended the Mahoning Valley Human Trafficking Task Force for their recent efforts to stop those involved in human trafficking. He believes congress needs to make certain they are provided with more resources.
Gregory M. Zelenitz, 66, describes himself as a self employed businessman since the age of 18, who knows what it is like to make up a payroll.
Zelenitz of St. Clairsville in Belmont County graduated from St. Johns Central High School and attended Ohio University and Belmont College, known as Belmont Technical College. Additionally, he is a graduate of the Reppert School of Auctioneering and works as both a licensed auctioneer and a realtor.
“I’m a fan of any business,” Zelenitz said. “I can surely appreciate what the businessman today has to go through.”
Zelenitz said he believes he is the only businessman in the field of Republicans in this primary race with the other three all primarily retired veterans.
“God bless them,” Zelenitz said, “but I’ve never had anything guaranteed to me in my whole life.”
He is concerned about the health care system and the lack of at home care providers for the elderly. When his own mother needed assistance, she was unable to get help to stay in her home. She had to go into nursing care and because of COVID-19 he was unable to go in and see her.
He has concerns that criminals are crossing the southern border with drugs and guns, but it is so difficult to get permission for the people from the Ukraine to legally come and work, for instance working in fields helping out the elderly.
In addition to helping the elderly, Zelenitz said he will provide a voice for the area, something he does not believe Johnson has the ability to do.
“Let’s make America sane again,” Zelenitz said. “There are a lot of bad ideas. Someone needs to stand up with a voice of reason and a voice of sanity.”
Zelenitz is concerned about the high prices of gas and the cost of food. He said the economic problems for the nation cannot be all blamed on the virus or the war overseas.
He believes with all the oil, gas and coal in Ohio, those resources should be utilized and it should be Ohio’s leaders who are speaking up about what Ohio can help provide for the rest of the country. He believes in clean coal burning technology and said he has heard there is 300 years worth of coal still unmined in Ohio.
Additionally, Zelenitz is concerned about the cost of electric cars and the lack of viable sources of electricity to run them. He believes in utilizing energy resources to reopen steel and aluminum manufacturing here.
Zelenitz said he is also concerned about education. He felt he received a very good education attending Catholic schools for 12 years, but is concerned that public education today is not teaching things students need to know such as home economics, reading and writing. Instead of the science of DNA and genetics, he said they are teaching students about gender identity.
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