First-Time Candidate Shawna Roberts of Barnesville to Seek Seat in Congress
STEUBENVILLE — Shawna Roberts of Barnesville is a stay-at-home mom who’s never run for political office, but she has her sights set squarely on representing East Ohio in the halls of Congress.
The 53-year-old says she will seek the Democratic nomination for the 6th Congressional District seat held by U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, and made a stop in Steubenville during a recent tour of the district.
“I have never run for office before. I have lived in a farmhouse on 25 acres outside of Barnesville and decided to run for the Congress for several reasons. Right now, I don’t know of anyone else running in the Democratic primary. And I believe the people of eastern Ohio deserve someone who will listen to them, will talk with them and who wants to represent the district,” Roberts said.
She said she began talking with friends about her plans in October, and began visiting the district’s communities in November.
“Everyone I have met has been very encouraging,” Roberts said.” A lot of people have told me they are excited I am running, and others are skeptical but still encourage me to run.”
Roberts said she moved to Belmont County in 2002, where she and her husband have been raising five children ever since.
The couple had a beekeeping business which folded in 2008 amid the national recession, and she said her husband has worked as a commercial truck driver since then.
“My primary job has been raising our children, and I have worked part-time in the fast-food industry,” Roberts said.
Roberts said the top three issues in her campaign are health care, the economy and expansion of broadband internet access to rural areas.
“Ohio has an opioid crisis and this area in particular has a serious problem. We need affordable health care,” she said. “Approximately 23 percent of the district is on Medicaid and some 38 percent of the district is on Social Security or Medicare. I have a friend who is now legally blind because she did not receive proper treatment for diabetes. Cutting funding for health care is not wise.”
Although Roberts acknowledged the economy has improved over the last few years, she doesn’t believe it is stable. Diversification is key, she said.
And access to the internet is essential to keep rural areas from falling behind, according to Roberts.
“We need access to broadband to be available for everyone. In the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt started the rural electrification campaign to bring electricity to the nation. We need the same type of campaign for broadband,” she said.
Roberts acknowledges she faces an uphill battle, but she believes she is ready to meet the challenge.
“Johnson already has $1 million in his re-election campaign, and since the redistricting of the congressional map, this area has been more Republican,” she said. “But it is time for a change, although I don’t view this as a partisan issue.”
Roberts said the current political system doesn’t represent what the nation’s founders intended — electing representatives to speak for the people.
“Our current representatives don’t understand the struggles of real people. They don’t understand what it is like to work hard to achieve some success,” Roberts said. “I never planned to run for office. But it feels like the right thing to do. When someone asks me why I am running for Congress, I tell them it is because I believe in them.”