Falls man joins 6th District race

LISBON — A Newton Falls Democrat challenging Republican Congressman Bill Johnson for the 6th Congressional District seat wants to ban fracking and decrease student debt through tuition-free public universities.

Werner Lange spent time campaigning in Columbiana County last week. By the time he reached his second stop, East Palestine, he had accumulated more than 150 signatures, surpassing the 50 needed to file as a party candidate in Ohio.

Via email to the Tribune Chronicle, Lange acknowledged that he is not a resident of the 6th Congressional District and said he intends to remain a Newton Falls resident during the campaign.

“First of all, there are no district residency requirements for congressional candidates or representatives in the state of Ohio; that’s based in the U.S. Constitution,” Lange wrote. “Secondly, and more importantly, the 6th Congressional District is a bizarre arbitrary fabrication of anti-democratic gerrymandering by GOP bosses.”

The 6th District stretches from southern Mahoning County, including parts of Boardman and Poland southward to Marietta on the Ohio River.

Lange said Johnson is “totally out of touch with the will and needs of the salt of the earth of this very hard-pressed district.”

Calling Johnson an advocate of the fracking and fossil-fuel industry, Lange said he has “lived and worked in Ohio nearly all my life of 71 years, and I stand firmly with the 99 percent and will fight like hell in the halls of Congress for the interests of working families stuck by gerrymandering into the 6th.”

Lange said he has dedicated his entire adult life to social movements for justice and peace, and was especially excited when Bernie Sanders ran for president. In fact, Lange served as a Sanders delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 2016.

His campaign platform is aligned with Sanders’ on many levels.

Lange adamantly opposes fracking, especially in all state parks and said environmentalists will have a vote if he is elected.

Johnson could not be reached for comment.

Lange believes money is available at the federal level to create tuition-free universities, coming from the “bloated” military budget.

“We have the least bang for our buck in job creation in the military,” he said, adding that the same amount of money invested in education would create hundreds of thousands of jobs.

He supports a single-payer universal health care system and opposes cuts to Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security.

Lange previously served as pastor at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Tuscawaras County and professor at Muskingum College and at regional campuses of Kent State University. He also served as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer.

Lange ran for Congress three times previously and also ran for the House 65th District in 2002.

White is a reporter for the Lisbon Morning Journal.

Tribune Chronicle reporter Guy Vogrin contributed to this report.