By JOSELYN KING
Freshman U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson faces a familiar challenger in 2012 as former Democrat rep. Charles Wilson - the same man Johnson beat in 2010 to earn the seat - wants to return to Washington.
The two are seeking the chance to represent Ohio's 6th District in the U.S. House.
Johnson, 57, lives in Marietta, Ohio, and is completing his first two-year term in the U.S. House.
Johnson has a bachelor's degree from Troy University, and a masters degree from Georgia Tech. He served 26 years in U.S. Air Force before retiring with the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1999,
He and his wife, LeeAnn, have four children and five grandchildren.
"We must focus on jobs and how to improve our economy," Johnson said. "Some progress has been made, but many challenges remain as we work to get this economy rolling again and put people back to work. I've fought to give business owners the tools they need to create jobs. In fact, I've voted for 40 jobs bills that the Democrat Senate has failed to act upon.
"The Senate's inaction on this critical issue is inexcusable. In fact, according to one analysis, the current unemployment figure doesn't accurately reflect the 23 million Americans who are unemployed, under-employed or who have given up looking for work altogether. I will continue to push for legislation that will lead to job creation, and will continue to fight the job-killing federal regulations and onerous tax burdens that are holding our economy back and strangling small businesses."
He believes the nation should focus on energy production.
"In my view, making America energy independent is the key to boosting our economy, creating jobs and rekindling the kind of American exceptionalism that has made our economy the envy of the world. Energy prices are simply too high right now. Every time we put gas in our car or pay an electricity bill we're reminded of it. We even see it in increased costs at the grocery store, because it costs more to transport food," he said.
"America can and should be energy independent. We have enough coal, natural gas and oil on our land and off our shores to be energy self-sufficient. But the federal government must get out of the way of the responsible development of our resources. And our government must stop picking winners and losers. Here in Eastern Ohio, I will continue to stand up and fight against President Obama's War on Coal, and I will continue to be an advocate for responsible natural gas and oil development in the Utica and Marcellus shale plays."
He added "the notion of American exceptionalism is not something that has passed us by."
"In fact, here in Ohio we are on the precipice of a great energy boom, if the government stays out of the way," he said. "The natural gas industry is poised to bring direct and indirect jobs to Ohio. This boom will bring with it improved infrastructure as well as education and job training for our workforce. This increase in jobs and revenue will certainly bring positive change to the lives of Ohioans, as will the steps toward energy independence. But we need to elect government leaders who understand that we can't lead from behind, leaders who will not stand in the way of economic progress. And, we need to elect a President that isn't committed to putting coal and coal jobs out of business."
Wilson, 69, of St. Clairsville served two terms in the House before being defeated by Johnson in 2010. He was elected to the House in 2006 while serving in his first term in the Ohio Senate. He also served four terms in the Ohio House.
He operates both Wilson Funeral Home and Wilson Furniture in Bridgeport. He is a graduate of Ohio University and the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science.
Wilson is clear on what he believes is the most important issue facing the nation,
"It's jobs, and jobs all the way around," he said. "I think if they would have worked together in Washington, they could pass the Jobs Bill. It puts $450 billion into this economy. Half of that would go to tax breaks for small business. There are incentives in there for a small businessman like myself to buy new equipment, and be able to get a tax credit on it. If I hired somebody who had been out of work for a year, you would get a credit toward one year of his wages.
"It's been stuck in the House. It went up to the Senate. They did a bi-partisan bill, and sent it back to the House. It's still there .... Right now it's a political battle."
He believes his experience and relationships in Washington could make a difference in getting legislation passed.
"The Stop the War on Coal bill that Bill Johnson did ... I would have gone to the Senate and asked what I could do in that bill to get them to approve it," Wilson said. "I probably would have gone to (U.S. senator from Ohio) Sherrod Brown to help us pass this bill.
"It's called negotiation. It's so much a part of making laws. One of the best ways is to work with the members of the Senate, and try to get things through."
And Wilson said the nation's future does look promising.
"This is America, and it is unique," he commented. "It has been tested before, and it will be tested again. We'll rise to the occasion. We'll do what has to be done to to get manufacturing going again in this country. One of the most important parts of that is allowing for incentives - helping them to make it worth their effort and attract workers."