GOP Reps. facing easy primaries

While U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan doesn’t face a primary election opponent, the two other House members who represent portions of the Mahoning Valley do.

Without a challenger, Ryan, D-Howland, is assured of winning his party’s primary. It’s safe to say U.S. Reps. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, and Dave Joyce, R-Bainbridge, shouldn’t have problems winning their party’s nominations.

Johnson is seeking his sixth two-year term representing the 18-county 6th Congressional District, which includes the southern portion of Mahoning and all of Columbiana.

Joyce is running for his fifth two-year term to the seven-county 14th Congressional District, which includes several communities in northern Trumbull.

Johnson’s Republican primary opponent is running for elected office for the first time.

Kenneth Morgan of Chesapeake describes himself on his website as “a moderate Republican (who) feels that the government does have a responsibility to help provide opportunities to disenfranchised Americans, but that we must do so in a fiscally responsible way.”

Morgan is currently attending Marshall University after spending six years as a U.S. Navy corpsman, serving with the Marines Corps, according to his website. He served in Afghanistan and survived an IED blast, the website states.

He calls himself a “young moderate Republican. His stances are socially centrist and fiscally conservative. He dislikes modern outrage culture and tries to work hard and be ethical in both his words and actions.”

He added that while “he understands the value of maintaining a strong military presence around the world,” he is “against regime change wars and does not wish to send our troops to fight wars that our politicians were too lazy to attempt to prevent in the first place.”

Johnson spent 26 years in the U.S. Air Force, retiring as a lieutenant colonel, serving as director of the Air Force’s chief information officer staff at U.S. Special Operations Command.

Johnson was first elected in 2010 riding a red wave to beat then-incumbent Democrat Charlie Wilson 50.2 percent to 45.2 percent.

Redistricting by Republicans made the 6th an even stronger GOP area and Johnson beat Wilson in a rematch in 2012, 53.3 percent to 46.7 percent.

Democrats still thought they had a shot of winning the district in 2014 and recruited Jennifer Garrison, a former state House member, to run against Johnson. She lost 58.2 percent to 38.6 percent.

Despite representing a financially struggling district, Johnson has emerged as one of the state’s congressional delegation’s strongest fundraisers. He easily was elected in 2016 with 70.7 percent of the vote to 29.3 percent for Democrat Michael Lorentz, and in 2018, Johnson received 69.3 percent of the vote to 30.7 percent for Democrat Shawna Roberts.

Roberts filed as the lone Democrat to run in the 6th this year.

Joyce is being challenged by Mark Pitrone of Stow in the Republican primary.

Pitrone has run for elected office without success.

This is his second bid for Congress. He ran as a write-in candidate in 2010 in the 7th District. He got 20 votes.

He also sought a Republican precinct committee person seat in 2016 in Stow 3C, where he lives, and got 33.1 percent of the vote.

If Pitrone couldn’t win a precinct committee seat in his neighborhood, he has no chance against Joyce in the March 17 primary.

Joyce was Geauga County prosecutor for about 25 years before first being elected to Congress in 2012. Joyce was appointed to be the Republican candidate for the seat in July of that year after then-U.S. Rep. Steven LaTourette made a surprise decision to not seek re-election after the primary.

The district isn’t as solid red as the 6th, but is a reliable Republican seat, represented by either LaTourette or Joyce since 1995.

In 2012, Joyce beat Democrat Dale Virgil Blanchard, then a perennial Democratic congressional candidate, 54 percent to 38.7 percent.

In 2014, Joyce did even better, beating Democrat Michael Wager 63.3 percent to 33 percent. In a 2016 rematch, Joyce beat Wager 62.6 percent to 37.4 percent.

The race was considerably closer in 2018 with Joyce beating Democrat Betsy Rader 55.2 percent to 44.8 percent.

The Democratic nominee in this year’s election is Hillary O’Connor Mueri, an attorney who’s running for elected office for the first time.

Skolnick covers politics for the Tribune Chronicle and The Vindicator.