After six years in office, most people in Northeast Ohio know where Democrat U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton stands on the issues.
Medina voters are also familiar with Wadsworth native, Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci.
What some people may not know is that the two are facing off in a newly drawn 16th District that encompasses the eastern half of Medina County, including the cities of Brunswick, Wadsworth and Medina.
The two were pitted against each other as a result of the redrawing of the congressional districts following the 2010 census.
“There’s no doubt that the redistricting in Ohio has been confusing and in some cases people are struggling to determine exactly what district they’re in,” Sutton said.
Renacci said the additional challenge is that the new district includes portions of Stark, Summit, Cuyahoga and Portage counties, The only entire county in the new district is Wayne.
Renacci’s old district includes all of Stark, Wayne and a portion of Ashland counties. Medina County also was divided, with a small part along the northern border in Sutton’s 13th Congressional District.
“I think a lot of people aren’t aware I don’t represent them anymore,” Renacci said. “The real challenge is reaching out to counties I wasn’t in before.”
On the issues
Sutton, who lives in Copley Township, is a former labor attorney who spent her early political career serving on the Summit City Council and Barberton City Council. In 1993, she was elected to serve as a state representative, a post she held for eight years. In 2006, she was elected to the 13th Congressional District seat vacated by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Avon.
In Congress, she supported extending unemployment coverage and said she supports legislation that would create incentives for businesses to keep good-paying jobs in the U.S.
“I know that if Ohioans are allowed to compete on a level playing field, they can outwork anyone,” she said.
Sutton stands by her vote in favor of the Affordable Care Act, which she said would help reduce health care costs and barred insurance companies from refusing coverage based on pre-existing conditions.
Renacci said he would work to repeal the law if re-elected.
“We are still a representative form of government, and the majority of people in my district and in my future district do not agree with the health care plan,” he said.
He said he believes tort reform to reduce malpractice lawsuits would be a better alternative.
Renacci served as president of Wadsworth City Council from 1999 to 2002. He was mayor of Wadsworth from 2004 to ’08.
In November 2010, Renacci was one of many freshman Republicans voted into office, giving the House a strong GOP majority. He’s also a certified public accountant.
When he came to Washington, he promised to rein in government spending.
Renacci said he wants to reduce the corporate tax rate to around 25 percent, to make it competitive with other countries, while closing loopholes that allow some businesses to pay less.
“The effective tax rate means some people pay more and some people pay less,” he said. He added that his reforms would make the system fairer and encourage businesses to create jobs.
Renacci also opposed letting tax cuts passed during the presidency of George W. Bush to expire for those earning more than $250,000.
He said the economy is still struggling and more taxes on wealthy Americans could harm job creation.
Sutton favors allowing the cuts to expire for those earning more than $250,000 a year. She said she believes returning to former tax rates in place during the 1990s would not stunt economic growth.
Working across the aisle
Sutton points to a bipartisan collaboration in 2008 — when the entire Ohio delegation came together in an attempt to save the DHL package delivery facility in Wilmington — as an example of her willingness to work with Republicans in Congress.
The effort ultimately failed and the facility closed.
But her efforts to save the 8,000 Ohio jobs, earned her the respect of Republican colleagues, including Rep. Mike Turner, who called her his hero at a news conference.
“I think it’s important people know there are those of us who are trying to reach across the aisle,” she said. “It can be done, but it’s become very hard.”
Renacci charged that while Sutton may have signed her name to bipartisan efforts, she’s was not involved at the ground level, drafting the bills.
“I have a political record,” he said. “I’ve had actual bipartisan bills that have gotten support.”
As an example, Renacci pointed to a 16-member bipartisan working group he co-founded.
Sutton countered that when it comes to major issues, such as health reform and the national debt, House Republicans, including Renacci, have not been willing to compromise.
Contact Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.