Summit County no longer has a representative in Congress.
U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci was leading U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton in the hotly contested 16th Congressional District race Tuesday night with about 52 percent of the vote, according to the unofficial election results.
“I am deeply humbled by the opportunity that voters in the 16th District have given me to serve again as their voice in Washington,” Renacci said in a news release. “Throughout this race, and again tonight, my thoughts have remained with the millions of Americans who are out of work and who continue to struggle through deeply difficult times.
“As I have always said, this race was about them, not about partisan politics, and I look forward to getting back to work on behalf of the district and doing the heavy lifting that is needed to repair our broken economy.”
Renacci congratulated Sutton “on her service to the people of Ohio and on running a very strong campaign.”
A win by Sutton, D-Copley Township, was the only shot Summit had for keeping a representative from within its borders. All of the other congressional candidates, including Renacci, in Tuesday’s election live outside Summit.
The newly drawn congressional boundaries put Sutton and Renacci, R-Wadsworth, in the same district and carved Summit into four districts, up from three.
Sutton led with the reporting of absentee votes, the first to be reported, but Renacci began creeping up in later results. Totals as of about midnight showed Renacci leading with about 52 percent of the vote. About 77 percent of the precincts in the expansive district had reported.
This would be only the second time in 80 years that Summit County has been without a congressional representative. The last time was a short stint after Tom Sawyer lost his congressional re-election bid in 2002.
Renacci and Sutton were locked in one of the mostly hotly contested and expensive races in the country and one of only two that featured congressional incumbents.
Their campaigns spent just under $4 million, while outside groups had poured almost $10 million into the race, with a nearly equal amount being spent against each candidate. This is the second most spent on a campaign by outside groups, according to the most recent data on the Center for Responsive Politics’ website.
Both Renacci and Sutton were out campaigning on Election Day, vying for votes in the district that now consists of all of Wayne County and parts of Stark, Summit, Portage, Medina and Cuyahoga.
James Slepian, who headed Renacci’s campaign, was buoyed when the campaign heard that people had to wait in line four hours to vote in Rocky River, a Republican stronghold in Cuyahoga County.
“That was encouraging to have that high of turnout,” he said.
Renacci had his election night party at the Galaxy restaurant in Wadsworth, while Sutton’s was at a union hall in Parma.
“It makes sense that she would be in a place that represents working people,” said Steve Fought, who ran Sutton’s campaign, noting her strong union support.
Renacci and Sutton only agreed to one debate during the campaign, and it was in Cleveland, which isn’t in the 16th District. Both proposed other potential debates, but couldn’t agree on any inside the district.
The race garnered the attention of several outside groups, including Jefferson Action, a Minnesota nonprofit that works to raise citizen involvement in the political process. A group of voters from the 16th District assembled by Jefferson Action deemed Renacci to be better positioned to tackle the economic challenges facing the district.
Sutton led in Summit and Cuyahoga counties; Renacci led in the district’s other counties.
The other area congressional races appeared to lack any big surprises. They showed:
• 11th District: U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Warrensville Heights, had no opposition in her newly formed district that starts in Cleveland and has a small sliver that extends down to pick up part of Summit County.
• 13th District: U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, easily beating Marisha Agana, a Republican from Warren, for re-election. This district includes part of Portage and Summit counties.
• 14th District: David Joyce, the Geauga County prosecutor and a Republican from Novelty, defeating Dale Blanchard, a Democrat from Solon. The Republicans chose Joyce as the party’s nominee when U.S. Rep. Steve LaTourette, R-Bainbridge Township, announced he was retiring. Blanchard, who has run for the seat several times, refused to step aside to allow the Democrats to pick another nominee. The district includes parts of Portage and Summit counties.
• 7th District: U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Lakeville, prevailed over Joyce Healy-Abrams, a Democrat and small-business woman from Canton. Gibbs’ redrawn district now includes most of Stark County, which formerly was mainly in the 16th District, and about half of Medina County.
Alex Arshinkoff, the longtime Summit GOP chairman, says this is the first time since the 1970s that the Republicans have held half the congressional representatives in Summit County. He downplayed the significance of Summit possibly no longer having its own member.
“I always thought Wadsworth was part of Greater Akron,” he said, chuckling. “It’s not Cleveland.”