Betty Sutton and Jim Renacci, vying to represent the 16th U.S. House District, have offered a picture of the arch partisanship that afflicts Congress and the nation’s capital. During their debate at the Cleveland City Club this week, each converted invitations to talk about compromise into talking points about their sharp differences.
Part of that involves the high stakes of the race, one of just two across the country in which redistricting resulted in a battle between a Democratic incumbent and a Republican one. In all, nearly $8 million has been thrown into the contest, by the campaigns and outside groups, much of the effort tilting heavily toward the negative.
As drawn, sweeping from western Cuyahoga County down through eastern Medina County, covering Wayne County, then jutting east into southern Summit and Portage counties, and catching the northwest corner of Stark County, the district favors the Republican candidate. Yet more than 50 percent of the district is new to Renacci. Sutton has one-fifth of her old district. This lack of familiarity surely adds to the competitive feel.
What is a voter with a penchant for the center, a preference for actual governing, to do?
We recommend the re-election of Betty Sutton on Nov. 6.
In many ways, the measure of lawmakers the past six years involves their response to the severe recession and its sluggish aftermath. Sutton has been among those who have grasped firmly the crucial role of government in cushioning the blow and preventing something worse. She embraced the auto rescue and the stimulus package, and each proved effective. More, the Copley Township Democrat played a key role in launching “cash for clunkers,” a temporary and successful measure to give automakers a needed boost, an episode in which she showed a capacity for compromise and strategic deal-making.
Sutton likes to describe herself as a champion of the middle class. She has delivered in a telling, if hardly glamorous, way. She has been an ardent advocate of fighting rust, or corrosion, recognizing the value of the small industry emerging around the idea. She helped to facilitate federal funding for research at the University of Akron. Here is part of the new economy, bringing together public and private players, university and companies, talent and ideas, to produce new products and jobs.
This editorial page has had sharp disagreements with Sutton, especially on trade and her tendency to seize on villains, whether China or outsourcing. At the same time, she understands the changing economic landscape and the essential role of investing in people, from health-care reform to Pell Grants. Her persistence is well known, and that focus has included staunch support for the rights of women to make choices about their health.
Jim Renacci makes a strong impression with his successful business career, his work as the mayor of Wadsworth, and his bipartisan breakfast club on Capitol Hill. On the largest questions of the day, the likes of the budget deficit and the economy, his answers too often fall flat. A balanced approach to deficit-reduction? He signed the Grover Norquist pledge opposing all tax increases. He touts tax cuts and fewer regulations to spur the economy — without much concrete evidence. In supporting the Paul Ryan budget plan, he not only backed changes in Medicare that would add a substantial cost burden to seniors, he gave little priority to the federal investment in such things as education and research.