Janet Garrett earned herself an impressive yet ultimately unsuccessful political resume as the 2014, 2016, and 2018 Democratic nominee for Ohio’s 4th Congressional District. She challenged incumbent Republican Jim Jordan three times, losing decisively each time but still managing to stake out clear positions on issues like fair trade, corporate taxation, healthcare access, college affordability, workers’ rights, high drug prices, and voting rights.
Early Life and Career
Before entering politics, Garrett had a long career as a teacher and professor. She was born in 1952 and attended public schools in her hometown of Richmond, Indiana. After high school, Garrett pursued her passion for education and earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Earlham College followed by a master’s degree in gifted education from Wright State University.
For over 30 years, Garrett worked as a public school teacher in Preble County, Ohio. She later took a position as an assistant professor of education at Edison State Community College. Throughout her time as an educator, Garrett focused on advancing arts education and gifted education programs.
Entry into Politics
In 2014, at the age of 62, Garrett decided to take the leap into politics by running for Congress in Ohio’s 4th District against six-term Republican incumbent Jim Jordan. She ran as a write-in Democratic candidate in the primary and won a spot on the November ballot.
2014 Congressional Campaign
Although Garrett lost the general election 67% to 32%, the 2014 campaign marked the beginning of her emergence as a progressive champion focused on economic issues. She criticized Jordan as beholden to corporate interests and ran on a platform of fair trade, job creation, affordable healthcare, and campaign finance reform.
2016 Congressional Campaign
Garrett sought a rematch against Jordan in 2016 after he voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act numerous times. She won the Democratic primary unopposed and challenged Jordan from the left again in the general election. Garrett lost 68% to 32% but began advocating for progressive policies like debt-free college, Medicare buy-in, and workers’ rights protections.
2018 Congressional Campaign
In 2018, Garrett defeated a primary challenger before facing Jordan yet again the general election. She lost 65% to 34% as Jordan continued to win re-election easily. However, Garrett used the campaign to speak out boldly on Democratic priorities like Medicare drug price negotiations, automatic voter registration, and ending corporate tax loopholes.
Throughout her three congressional campaigns against Jim Jordan, Janet Garrett staked out firm stances on major economic, social welfare, education, healthcare, and voting rights issues:
Economy and Jobs
Garrett argued for replacing free trade deals with fair trade deals that protect American jobs, workers, and the environment. She criticized outsourcing and offshoring by corporations.
Corporate Tax Reform
Garrett called for eliminating tax loopholes for corporations that move jobs overseas and using the savings to invest in infrastructure, rural broadband access, and renewable energy.
Garrett pushed for a Medicare buy-in option open to all Americans, not just seniors. This would expand affordable healthcare access beyond the gains made by the Affordable Care Act.
Garrett called for federal financial assistance to states to make public colleges and universities more affordable and enable debt-free college education.
Garrett argued that wages need to compensate work fairly and be high enough to provide a decent living for workers and their families. She advocated strongly for workers’ right to organize.
Drug Pricing Reform
Garrett demanded that Congress allow Medicare to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies on drug prices to bring down costs for seniors.
Garrett criticized voter suppression efforts and pushed automatic voter registration, online registration, and other steps to make voting more accessible.
Assessment as Candidate
As a three-time congressional candidate, Janet Garrett had some clear strengths but also some significant weaknesses that prevented her from breaking through in her red-leaning district.
- Passionate progressive ideas
- Firm command of policy details
- Strong communicator
- Authenticity as former teacher
- Ran in very conservative district
- Lagged in fundraising
- Lacked name recognition
- Too far left for district
Life After Politics
Following her third unsuccessful campaign in 2018, Garrett has continued her advocacy work and returned to her roots in education.
Although no longer a candidate, Garrett has stayed politically active by pushing progressive policies through advocacy groups, service on non-profit boards, and activism at the local level. She continues urging action on issues like workers’ rights, healthcare access, and money in politics.
Return to Academia
Garrett recently came full circle by taking a position teaching in the Department of Educational Studies at Wright State University. She is able to apply her over 30 years in public education to help prepare tomorrow’s teachers.
Through her perseverance and unapologetic progressivism, Janet Garrett left her mark on Ohio’s 4th District over three straight election cycles. And while she fell short each time against Jim Jordan, Garrett gave voice to an ambitious policy vision focused on economic, social, and political equality that resonated with many Democratic voters. Her journey highlights the importance of principled advocates who advance bold ideas even in challenging electoral environments. Though she never attained congressional office, Garrett found other ways to engage in the issues she cares about most, through advocacy and academia. She continues to speak out and make a difference as a leading progressive voice in her community.
What campaigns did Janet Garrett run in?
Garrett was the Democratic nominee for Ohio’s 4th Congressional District in 2014, 2016, and 2018. She lost to Republican incumbent Jim Jordan each time.
What were some of Garrett’s key policy positions?
Garrett advocated for fair trade, corporate tax reform, Medicare buy-in, debt-free college, workers’ rights, drug pricing reform, and voting rights protections.
How did Garrett perform in her campaigns?
Garrett lost decisively in each general election, by 35 points in 2014, 36 points in 2016, and 31 points in 2018. She never came close to unseating Jordan.
What are some strengths and weaknesses of Garrett as a candidate?
Strengths: Passionate progressivism, policy command, communication skills. Weaknesses: Ran in very red district, lagged in fundraising and name recognition, too far left for district.
What has Garrett focused on since ending her campaigns?
She has stayed active in advocacy work and also returned to academia as a professor focused on teacher education.