Democrats Garrison, Howard Face Off In 6th District Primary

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Two Democrats will square off in the upcoming primary election for the chance to unseat Republican Bill Johnson for the U.S. House of Representatives’ Ohio 6th District.

Campaigning to become the Democratic nominee are Jennifer Garrison, a former state representative from Marietta, and Greg Howard, an engineer who operates a farm in Meigs County.

Garrison previously served three terms in the Ohio House of Representatives for the 93rd District, which then encompassed all or parts of five counties in eastern Ohio. She was a candidate for Ohio Secretary of State, but left the race in early 2010 due to concerns regarding conservative social views, the Plain Dealer then reported.

Garrison had been tapped by outgoing Gov. Ted Strickland to fill a vacancy in the State Employment Relations Board later that year, but a Republican-controlled Ohio Senate rejected the appointment.

Howard is an Albany resident who operates an organic farm in Meigs County with his wife, Gerry. He has also worked as a mechanical and civil construction engineer and helps manufacture portable egg washers for other farmers, according to his campaign website.

The 6th District race is considered one of the most competitive in Ohio, as the eventual Democratic nominee will face two-term incumbent Rep. Johnson (R-Marietta) in the November general election. The race has been featured as part of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “Emerging Districts” program.

With the primary election just a few weeks away, Garrison appears to have the upper hand in both outreach and fundraising. Garrison formally announced her candidacy in July 2013, giving her months to campaign as the sole Democratic challenger until Howard jumped in the race in February.

Garrison has already received several endorsements, including those from Ohio Rep. Debbie Phillips (D-Albany) and Ohio Sen. Lou Gentile (D-Steubenville) as well as the state’s AFL-CIO Executive Board.

As of March 31, she had already raised more than $450,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Reports were not available for Howard’s fundraising.

Federal Election Commission filings show a vast majority of Garrison’s fundraising has come from “large contributions” (those above $200) and from various political action committees. Just $26,370 has come from “small contributions” (six percent total), which is less than her reported self-financing of more than $28,000.

What Howard lacks in organizational support, he leads in detailing his ideology on political issues. Howard argues that financial interests have “allowed corporations to flood the political scene with money” and supports a constitutional amendment related to campaign finance reform.

Howard’s campaign website features his “Blueprint for a Democratic and economically sound society,” an issues section with topics ranging from the economy to agriculture and education.

Garrison’s website does not feature any issues page. The site has posted infrequent opinion pieces and releases related to U.S. Congress and her support for labor interests in southeast Ohio. The last of these came in October 2013.

Both candidates face a steep, uphill battle if nominated to face Johnson. The incumbent has already raised more than $1.3 million in this election cycle alone, with nearly $1 million cash on hand in preparation for the general election.

Johnson, who aggressively campaigns against the “War on Coal” as a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has already received more than $100,000 from the oil, gas and mining industries for this year’s election. Johnson unseated the late Rep. Charles Wilson, Jr. in 2010 and defeated him again in a 2012 rematch.