Like Don Quixote, a public school teacher in Oberlin is tilting at windmills in a quest to fight the unbeatable foe.
Janet Garrett is running as a write-in candidate on the Democratic ballot to take on the incumbent Republican in Ohio’s 4th U.S. House District.
If at least 50 people write in Ms. Garrett’s name during the May 6 primary election, the 24-year teaching veteran will face U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Urbana) in November. It is a quixotic endeavor, to be sure. But the odds against her unseating Mr. Jordan do not deter her drive for dialogue.
Ms. Garrett is fully aware that Mr. Jordan has the money and machinery he needs to keep his job. He’s in a district gerrymandered to guarantee that outcome.
But the 61-year-old elementary school teacher believes that the voice of many progressive Democrats, newly folded into the 4th District, have been neutralized. Democratic dissent is arguably irrelevant in a Republican-majority district that follows a 250-mile course, heavy on GOP-leaning counties, from Huron County down to Champaign County, Mr. Jordan’s southwest Ohio base.
The ultra-conservative Tea Party favorite has a lock on power. The midterm election should be a cakewalk for the fourth-term Republican. No Democrat even bothered to challenge him.
“When nobody stepped up to run against him [by last month’s filing deadline], I actually went into mourning,” she said. “I was just so unhappy that he [Jordan] was going to get a free pass, and there would be no discussion about his record.”
The past president of the local teachers union decided 4th District constituents deserved better, so she registered as a write-in candidate. She said many people in the district who were previously represented by Toledo Democrat Marcy Kaptur still have no idea who represents them now.
Ms. Garrett is the married mother of three children, a one-time Peace Corps volunteer, and a self-described activist. She understands how busy people are and how many, just scrambling to get by, miss what’s going on.
“The problem is, he [Mr. Jordan] is taking advantage of the fact that people aren’t taking notice,” Ms. Garrett said. “He’s an ideologue, an extremist. He votes no 78 percent of the time. Just no — no on raising the minimum wage, no to the American Jobs Act, which would have created infrastructure jobs, and no, every single time, for the Affordable Care Act.”
“He has no alternative to the federal health care law,” Ms. Garrett said. “He would like to take us back to where we were: children thrown off their parents’ [insurance] plan, people with pre-existing conditions denied coverage, the poor with no health care options.”
She is on a quest for the right to be heard, to debate policy. She wants to start a conversation among constituents of the 4th District, even if the incumbent chooses to abstain.
“I don’t think the dialogue has to be between Jordan and me — I think the dialogue has to occur among people,” she said. “I think this has to be a grass-roots thing.
“People talking to people and saying: ‘Do you realize that our representative voted against the Violence Against Women Act? Do you realize our representative voted against raising the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour the last time and is against raising it now? Do you realize our representative voted against equal pay for equal work?’
“As long as somebody on the other side is asking about what’s being done or not done on behalf of the 4th District, there’s going to be a dialogue,” Ms. Garrett said. “If nobody is on the other side, no one will talk about Jim Jordan’s record, no one will question it.
“He’s in favor of for-profit education. I’m very much against tax dollars going into somebody’s pocket when that money should be going to meaningful education of our children.”
Ms. Garrett said she’s been involved with elections from the sidelines “for pretty much my whole life,” but has never run for office before. “Never got mad enough to do it,” she said.
But now she is on a quest, no matter how hopeless. Give her credit for courage. Thank her for presenting a choice to marginalized constituents in a gerrymandered district.
Marilou Johanek is a columnist for The Blade.
Contact Blade columnist Marilou Johanek at: firstname.lastname@example.org