Fifth Street Neighbors

A line of Victorian homes fronted by tree-shaded sidewalks help make north Fifth Street one of Marietta’s most popular neighborhoods. But this election season the brick-paved street could also gain some notoriety as two of its residents will be vying to represent Ohio’s 6th District in U.S. Congress.

Incumbent Republican Congressman Bill Johnson and Democrat challenger Jennifer Garrison live within a block of each other in the Fifth Street neighborhood.

“I didn’t know that, but it is pretty interesting that both candidates for such a large district would live on the same street,” said Kyle Connery, 21, who was just leaving his Fifth Street residence to take his dog for a walk Thursday morning.

A Marietta College senior from Little Hocking, Connery said he’s lived in the neighborhood for two years, but has never met either candidate.

The 6th Congressional District is Ohio’s largest and includes 18 counties basically located along the state’s southeastern border from Mahoning County in the northernmost portion of the district to Scioto County in the south.

Brandee Norris, 30, lives a block or so north of Johnson and about two blocks north of Garrison.

“This is a nice neighborhood, and we have a lot of great neighbors,” she said. “I can see why they both would want to live here. My husband sometimes works with Jennifer as an attorney, too, so we do know her.”

Fourth Street resident Wendy Myers was jogging along Fifth Street Thursday morning near the Johnson home. She said it’s kind of fascinating that both 6th District candidates are living in the same Marietta neighborhood.

“The Johnsons put their son in public school with our kids,” she said. “My daughter is in the fifth grade, so she hangs out with him sometimes. And we take turns watching each other’s kids.”

A few doors up the street Libby Brokaw, 78, agreed that it’s pretty unique to see two Congressional candidates living so close.

“When I saw that (Garrison) was going to run, I thought this would be a strange situation,” she said. “But I don’t think there’s any reason for the neighborhood to feel concerned. We’ve met and talked with the Johnsons. I see them passing by the house sometimes. They’re like any other people, nice friendly neighbors.”

Johnson has represented the district for two terms now, and moved with his wife LeeAnn and youngest son Nathan from Mahoning County to Marietta shortly after he was first elected in November 2010.

“We love this area and have been in Marietta since April of 2011, ” Johnson said, adding that he had no idea that one of his neighbors would eventually be seeking his Congressional office.

“We may be from different parties, but we also happen to live in the same community,” he said. “And Jennifer is one of the 721,000 constituents I represent in this district.”

Garrison, her husband Russell, and youngest son, Max, are into the 10th year at their Fifth Street residence, although they’ve lived in Marietta for a total of 24 years now. She said she rarely runs into Johnson, except at some community events.

“I know he has an address about a block away, but I don’t see him much at all. I think he’s gone most of the time,” she said. “He may have a very nice family, but I don’t think he reflects what’s important for this community. I love the Marietta community. That’s why I wanted to run for Congress. If he had lived here for 10 years or so, I would probably feel differently about him.”

Garrison previously served three terms, from 2004 to 2010, representing the state’s 93rd District in the Ohio House of Representatives.

She believes Johnson originally moved from Mahoning County to Marietta after winning the 2010 election because Marietta is located at the center of the 6th District.

“It’s 2 hours and 45 minutes to Canfield in the northern part of the district, and about the same travel time to the Portsmouth area in the south,” she said.

Johnson admits there’s a lot of traveling involved in covering the district.

“We’ve driven more than 100,000 miles on district business, just during this term,” he said. “But some of the greatest people in Ohio live in the 6th District, including our neighbors. And when Congress is not in session I try to get home at least every weekend. But in the job of representing this vast district, you can’t stay in one place long.”

During his home time, Johnson said the family often has cookouts with neighbors or spends time together around the fire pit in their own backyard.

“But my wife and I are in this part of Ohio because this is where we chose to be,” he said, adding that they try to stay involved in the local community.

Garrison said she and husband, Russ, have always been involved with the community through their children’s schools as well as through various volunteer efforts.

“We’ve always volunteered-my husband is currently one of the coaches for the local cross-country team,” she said.

Although she and Johnson will be ramping up their campaigns as November approaches, she hopes her neighbors will not look at her any differently.

“I would never want any of my neighbors to feel uncomfortable with us because I’m running for office,” she said.