U.S. Representative: Johnson, Blazek vie for GOP nomination

Bill Johnson

LISBON — U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson of Marietta would like a chance to return as the 6th District congressional representative for a fifth term, but first he has competition in his own party in May from Robert Blazek of Bellaire.

Blazek, a self-employed farmer, small businessman and inventor, who graduated from The Ohio State University with degrees in both finance and economics, believes Johnson has not done enough for the people of the district.

Blazek said career politicians in Congress, spend 20 to 50 percent of their time fundraising. Instead, Blazek said he will offer an alternative to that, spending the time Johnson “spends panhandling for money” working with local officials such as mayors and county officials, helping them apply for grant dollars and funding to get things rebuilt in the district. Blazek talked about the wooden utility lines currently in use in parts of the district, as well as roads and bridges needing to be repaired.

Johnson said he is also concerned about infrastructure needs in the district, but besides roads, bridges, water and sewer, Johnson said a key infrastructure concern in this area is broadband internet access. He points out there are a lot of communities along the river losing out on successful futures because of a lack of access. Students are unable to do their school work, current businesses struggle and new businesses do not want to locate in those communities because of a lack of broadband internet, which Johnson calls an “opportunity killer.”

Economically, Blazek said he will be joining President Donald Trump in working toward Fair Trade, which is different he feels than Free Trade. Blazek said he believes in tariffs when trade deficits continually exceed 10 percent and notes America is the only country not implementing tariffs. With China, Blazek said the total trade deficit has exceeded 60 percent.

Johnson has been working on the economics in America as well and said he is very proud of his legislative record and things currently being accomplished. He talks about stopping the War on Coal and tax reform which put more money into the pockets of many Americans and businesses, along with the pro-economic growth policies of the current administration. Johnson said he also had seven bills signed by the former President Barack Obama, in areas such as health care, veterans care and energy. Johnson currently sits on the budget committee and the energy and commerce committee of congress.

For Johnson, some of his priorities continues to be making the tax reform provisions permanent and rolling back regulations on businesses. He said he is happy the individual mandate for Obamacare no longer requires residents of the district to buy expensive insurance they do not want or need.

“Creating a pro jobs environment is what I’m focused on,” Johnson said.

Johnson has a sense of optimism with the Trump presidency and talks about how much things have improved with low unemployment, the stock market setting record after record highs while there have been a record low in illegal border crossings.

“It’s just not a feeling of optimism,” Johnson said. “There are facts backing up this optimism. It has been one of the most productive 15 months of a presidency. Only perhaps Ronald Reagan had a better track record.

His opponent Blazek has some concerns when it comes to immigration and violence in America right now. Blazek said violence against law enforcement should be treated as hate crimes and prosecuted as death penalty cases. He also said he would be tougher on what he considers the Latin American invasion into our county where $135 billion is being spent on people who are not citizens. Additionally, Blazek said we are rewarding people who are not following our laws.

Blazek said he plans to defend the U.S. sovereignty and help those dealing with homeland security by revoking the visas of those on the FBI terrorism watchlist. According to Blazek, out of the more than a million records on the database fewer than 5,000 are Americans.

A retired lieutenant colonel from Air Force, Johnson said he also is quite concerned about the security of the nation after how much “our military has been hollowed out” in recent years from a funding standpoint. Johnson notes the number of training accidents last year was four times the number of those killed in combat. The lack of funds has left airplanes sitting without engines and ships unable to leave the harbor if an emergency arises. Johnson said a recent bipartisan spending bill gave a $655 million boost to the military.

Additionally, Johnson said a strong military is needed because some big international problems, such as a very strained relationship with Russia, the continuing ISIS ideology watch, countries like Iran sponsoring terrorism and countries like North Korea and China flexing their muscles.

“There are some real challenges ahead,” Johnson said, “and having a strong military and the ability to push back is very important.”

Each man also talked about some other issues they are concerned about.

Blazek also said he has a plan to help deal with the mental illness and violence, which are causing school shootings and other horrific acts. He would propose a mental health tax of 1 percent on all violent video games and movies. Those movies rated PG-13, R and NC-17 would qualify, as well as games rated for violence. Blazek said he believes the tax would raise about $400 million and the money would then go toward mental health.

Johnson is concerned about the opioid crisis, which has struck many parts of the country. including the 6th District, particularly hard. He has been a part of legislative efforts, but also does not believe that alone will solve the problem.

“This is not a problem we can arrest, incarcerate, spend or legislate our way out of,” Johnson said, adding it is going to take communities working together with mental health counselors, faith-based facilities and families. “It’s going to take everybody to be engaged to help lead the millions out of opioid addiction.”

Blazek knows he has no political experience, but questions “how much experience do you need to do nothing.” He said he refuses to become a career politician and when he is done any money he has in a campaign fund will be donated to charity. Additionally, Blazek said if he has as much trouble getting things done as he believes Johnson has he will quit.

“After five years if I haven’t figured it out, I move on,” Blazek said of his philosophy he holds for his other ventures. “Because if it’s not working in five years, I’m just not very good at it.”

Johnson said he is seeking re-election because there is still more work to be done.

“I think we are on the path to make America great again,” Johnson said, adding his skills and professional experience lend to the job well.

“As long as the people in Eastern Ohio continue to put their faith in me, I will continue to work for them,” Johnson said.