By Stephanie Warsmith
and Paula Schleis
Beacon Journal staff writers
Several candidates who cut their political teeth in Summit County are diving back into the fray, seeking county, state or national offices.
Pete Crossland, a former longtime Summit County councilman and state representative, is running for Congress. Retired county Fiscal Officer John Donofrio is trying for an at-large Summit County Council seat. And county council members Tim Crawford and Paula Prentice are trying to take seats at the Statehouse now held by Republicans, who wield power in Columbus.
These veterans of county battles are a few of the better-known candidates who filed Wednesday to run in the May 6 primary. Both the primary and the general election this year will feature interesting matchups in county, statewide and national races. Every Statehouse and judicial seat in Summit County will be contested.
Keary McCarthy, chief of staff for the Ohio House Democrats, said the party’s goal is to increase its numbers in the House, stop the GOP’s supermajority and ultimately take back the chamber.
“We are exciting about these two competitive candidates,” McCarthy said of Crawford and Prentice.
The tea party also is attempting to make waves, challenging U.S. Rep. Dave Joyce, R-Russell Township, and Ohio Sen. Frank LaRose, R-Copley Township.
Rep. Matt Lynch is giving up his Statehouse seat to run against Joyce, while Caleb Davenport, a political newcomer from Wooster with a keen interest in the abortion issue, is running against LaRose.
“In a nutshell, we want the heartbeat bill passed,” Davenport said, referring to a bill that would make abortion illegal if a fetus’ heartbeat can be detected. “We feel there hasn’t been enough done to accomplish that, and that would be front and center for us,” he said of himself and his supporters.
“I don’t know much about the gentleman who is running against me ... but I look forward to a good and robust competition,” LaRose said. “It’s good for the process to have competition, and I hope everyone will make it friendly and we state our case and let voters decide the best man for the job.”
LaRose said his focus in the Ohio Senate has been getting Ohioans back to work and creating an environment where businesses can grow.
Crossland, who at 76 is perhaps the most senior of the local candidates, is challenging U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Wadsworth, in the 16th Congressional District.
“I’m feeling younger every minute,” said Crossland, who in addition to a long tenure on county council also served in the Ohio House from 1973 to 1983. “This thing is really energizing me.”
Renacci said in an email that he has been fighting for the “top priorities of promoting job creation, growing our economy and putting us on the path to fiscal responsibility.”
“It is a privilege and honor to serve the people of Northeast Ohio, and I look forward to continue working on their behalf,” he said.
The most heated of the local congressional races could be in the 14th District matchup between Joyce, a freshman lawmaker, and Lynch.
Kevin Benacci, Joyce’s spokesman, came out firing against Lynch on Wednesday, saying he has a history of not paying his taxes and voted against a tax cut for Ohioans and a balanced budget.
“We’ll contrast that any day of the week to Dave’s record of getting Washington on a budget for the first time in four years and voting to repeal Obamacare every chance he has had,” Benacci said in an email.
Lynch didn’t return a cellphone message seeking comment Wednesday.
Also vying for the 14th District are Michael Wager, a Democratic attorney and adjunct faculty member at Case Western Reserve University; and David Macko, a Libertarian from Solon who is a retired banker and Army veteran. Macko sought the post in 2012, when incumbent Steve LaTourette retired, but lost to Joyce. The district includes Stow and other northeastern Summit County communities, northern Portage County and north to Ashtabula.
Joining Renacci, a representative since 2011, and Crossland in the 16th District race is James Donenwirth of Cleveland.
The 16th is an L-shaped district that runs from western Cuyahoga County down to Wayne County, taking in parts of Medina and Summit, and then west through parts of Stark and Portage counties.
Other congressional races include:
■ 7th District: U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs, R- Lakeville, who joined Congress in 2011, will face Robert Fisher of Canton. The 7th is a Pac-Man-shaped district that takes in most of Stark County and parts of Medina County.
■ 11th District: U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Warrensville Heights, who joined Congress in 2008, will face Mark Zetzer, a Republican from Shaker Heights. He formed the Shaker Heights Taxpayers Union in 2012 to try to defeat a proposed income tax increase and unsuccessfully ran for city council. The 11th includes part of Akron and runs along western Summit County and into Cleveland.
■ 13th District: U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, who joined Congress in 2003, will face John Stephen Luchansky, a Democrat from Boardman who ran unsuccessfully for the 6th Congressional District in 2006. The 13th includes part of Akron and many of its suburbs and extends east through central Portage County and into Youngstown.
One of the more surprising primary matchups is a challenge to state Rep. Zack Milkovich, D-Barberton, for his 35th District seat. Assistant Akron Prosecutor Greta Johnson stepped forward to run against Milkovich, who unsuccessfully tried in November for the Barberton Clerk of Courts post.
“My priorities and experience better reflect the people of the district,” said Johnson, a former county prosecutor who has been with the city since 2012 and is married to Akron Police Officer Mike Gilbride. “I think people should be proud of those who represent them in Columbus.”
Milkovich, who was elected to the House in 2011, said he welcomes the challenge.
“I have a great deal of respect for the people of my district, and I’ll continue to work hard and fight for the working class,” he said.
Also running for the 35th District is Linda Robinson, a Republican who ran for an at-large Akron City Council seat last year.
Other statehouse races include:
■ 27th District: LaRose, who was first elected in 2011, will face Davenport, a Republican, and George Rusiska, a Democrat from Wooster who is vice chairman of the Wayne County Democratic Party.
■ 34th District: Emilia Sykes is trying for the seat her father, state Rep. Vernon Sykes, can’t run for again because of term limits. She faces competition in the Democratic primary from Frank Comunale, who has been a Summit County Council member for eight years. Also trying for the seat is Cynthia Blake, a Republican from Akron.
■ 36th District: Rep. Anthony DeVitis, R-Green, who was appointed to the House in 2011, is being challenged by Prentice, who is serving her second term on the county council.
■ 37th District: Rep. Kristina Roegner, R-Hudson, who is in her second term, is being challenged by David Worhatch, a Democrat and Stow attorney who twice before has run for the Statehouse.
■ 38th District: Rep. Marilyn Slaby, R-Copley Township, who is serving her second term, is facing Crawford, who has been a member of the Summit County Council since 1993 and is a former Norton mayor.