LISBON - New U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson confirmed he is planning to relocate from Mahoning County to Washington County, a move designed to place him in the the middle of the 360-mile 6th Congressional District.
Johnson called the move "totally motivated" by his desire to put himself in a better position to regularly travel to all 12 counties within the district. He currently resides in Poland in Mahoning County, which is the northernmost county in a district that extends along the Ohio River to Scioto County in extreme southern Ohio.
Johnson, a Republican, said it is all about being able to "better serve the people who elected me," and he believes moving to Washington County, where Marietta is located, would allow him to do that.
Congressional districts are due to be redrawn by the 2012 election, taking into account the two House seats Ohio will lose as a result of the 2010 Census. When asked if redistricting played a role in his decision, Johnson said he is simply focusing on "my job of representing the 6th District."
Johnson was interviewed on Wednesday, and later that day the Washington Post reported the 6th District could be merged with the 18th District, which encompasses all or portions of 15 counties to the west of the Sixth District. U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs, also a Republican, represents the 18th District, and, like Johnson, was just elected to his first term.
"Pushing those two districts together is a pretty easy proposition," wrote Aaron Blake, who described Johnson's win over Democrat incumbent Charlie Wilson "among the most surprising in the country."
He also said that Johnson "was not a top recruit and isn't close to the GOP establishment in the state."
Poland, where Johnson and his family currently reside, actually is located just over the boundary line in the 17th Congressional District, but there is nothing in the Constitution requiring candidates reside within the district they serve: They must only reside in the state. Former U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson, whom Johnson defeated in the November election, also lived just outside the 6th District.
"You are going to see a diametrically opposite approach from me," he said, referring to Wilson's supposed inaccessibility, especially since the rise of the Tea Party movement. "I'm going to see a lot of the people, and they are going to see a lot of me."
Johnson was sworn in Wednesday along with other members of the 112th Congress. He said his priority is to reverse the anti-business climate of the Obama Administration and Democrats in Congress by "getting the federal government off the backs of job creators."
Johnson said their policies have made businesses afraid to invest and have made it harder for them to succeed, citing the federal health care reform bill as an example. "We have to create an environment in which businesses can grow," he said.