HANOVERTON - Change is needed in the political climate locally and across the nation, former House speaker and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said Friday.
Gingrich was at the Spread Eagle Tavern for a fundraiser for Republican Congressman Bill Johnson, who is seeking re-election in Ohio's 6th District. He will face Democrat Charlie Wilson in November.
Gingrich stressed several times during the event that change is needed in Washington, and he believes voters in the district can make a significant difference in bringing about that change.
"This district really matters this year. And it matters because Ohio matters. You have a chance to elect a U.S. senator who has the values of Ohio instead of Hollywood," he said of Ohio's Republican treasurer Josh Mandel, who is running for the Senate against incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown.
He also said voter turnout here could not only have an impact on the political climate at the state level, but at national level as well.
Gingrich said of President Barack Obama, "He doesn't get it. This is a country founded on taking risks. You have to recognize that there are fundamental changes that are needed."
According to Gingrich, those changes include taking advantage of drilling for oil and gas on our own soil. He said the country has been "trapped in the left on the idea of peak oil," which is the belief that the country is running out of fuel.
He said drilling in North Dakota has shown that oil exists in abundance under the surface of American soil and that drilling in the western states alone has "almost doubled our own reserves."
Drilling creates jobs, which is something he doesn't believe the president is focused on, Gingrich said. He said the country now has the largest rate of unemployment, largest fund deficits and highest gas prices in modern history.
"Innovation is moving us toward America being the lowest cost producer of energy than any other country. As we develop our energy sources, we will be the leading manufacturing country in the world at the end of this decade," he said.
Salem resident Lloyd Burte agreed that energy independence is necessary to rebound the economy and create jobs.
"I'm completely and totally fed up with Obama and Congress and the way the EPA is destroying the energy industry," he said.
His 22-year-old daughter Amy is a mining engineer who moved to Wyoming to find work after graduating from West Virginia University.
During his speech, Gingrich said the Sierra Club, the environmental organization of which he was formerly a member, has opposed natural gas drilling.
"My belief is the Sierra Club is now keeping us in the dark," he said.
Johnson said Gingrich knows the "heart of America" and told those attending the event that Obama's policies are going to "hurt America."
Political activist Becky Burke of East Liverpool said conservatives need to "stand up" and be more vocal about conservative rights and principles. She also said voters need to support the energy independence effort underway locally and nationally.
"This energy that is coming into our area is awesome and we must be behind those who bring it in," she said.
Schwendeman writes for the Morning Journal in Lisbon.