U.S. Rep. David Joyce survived a grueling primary against a tea party-backed candidate, and he now is facing an equally tough challenge from Michael Wager, the Democratic vying for his 14th District seat.
The race has gotten nasty, with Wager calling Joyce “just another greedy congressman” in one ad and Joyce responding by labeling Wager as “a politician who will say anything.”
Joyce has outraised and outspent Wager, a first-time candidate, with the two combining to spend more than $3 million (as of Oct. 15), according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
The race is the feistiest and most expensive of the four congressional matchups involving candidates representing some portion of Summit County in the Nov. 4 election.
Joyce, a former, longtime Geauga County prosecutor from Russell Township, is serving his first term after successfully running to replace retired congressman-turned-lobbyist Steve LaTourette. Though Wager hasn’t held public office, he is an attorney from Moreland Hills who has chaired the board of the Cleveland-area port authority and has served on the White House Business Council. He owned and operated a chain of Cinnabon bakeries.
Joyce said he has enjoyed his time in Congress, though he said it has been frustrating to see legislation passing the GOP-controlled House languish in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Such legislation includes a bill he co-sponsored that would coordinate efforts to protect the Great Lakes and finding common-sense ways to cut spending, like turning off the lights and decreasing the heat in federal buildings when they aren’t in use.
If re-elected, Joyce said, he would continue to champion these bills, as well as doing more to address problems with the Great Lakes, such as the algae blooms that tainted drinking water in Toledo.
“Unless we fix that problem, we’re going to continue to have it,” he said in a recent phone interview.
Wager said his priorities would be raising the minimum wage, reforming the tax code to “eliminate some carve outs for large corporations” and creating a national infrastructure investment bank of several hundred billion dollars to upgrade the country’s infrastructure and provide jobs. He said the investment in roads, ports, the electric grid, water systems and wastewater systems would be paid using long-term financing. He said Akron’s estimated $1.4 billion sewer project would be an example of a project that could get funding.
“We need to do something about this for the public health,” Wager said of sewer and water upgrades.
Asked about his ad calling Joyce, a “greedy congressman,” Wager said Joyce has voted to retain congressional perks, is a double dipper because he earns his pension and a congressional salary and has “shown no willingness to do anything about the proliferation of money in politics.”
“He’s just another congressman interested in himself,” Wager said.
Joyce said he never voted to allow congressional members to fly first class and supported a budget that said taxpayer funds could not be used for this purpose. He said the criticisms Wager is making have been “proven not to be true.”
“His whole campaign has been nothing but attacking me,” Joyce said. “It’s great as a candidate because you can say whatever you want. I want to tell the truth and not talk about Wager. I want to talk about why it’s an honor to be a representative and what I will do if I’m re-elected.”
Joyce has couched himself as someone willing to reach across the aisle, even taking a Democratic congresswoman on a “date” to a presidential inauguration. Wager, though, claims Joyce is as “hyper-partisan as you can get.”
“Dave Joyce is hardly the worst member of Congress,” Wager said. “He’s emblematic of the problems in Congress. They say one thing to the press and go to Washington and do something completely different.”
Joyce says he has worked with Democrats on legislation, including his proposal to cut federal spending that he crafted with a freshman Democrat.
“Too many people go there and continue to want to fight,” Joyce said. “I am there to do America’s business ... I try to work with people.”
Also running in the 14th District race is David Macko, a Libertarian candidate from Solon who also ran in 2012. He had not raised nor spent any money, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
The other congressional races in Summit County involve:
•?11th District: U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Warrensville Heights, who is facing Mark Zetzer, a Republican from Shaker Heights.
•?13th District: U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, who is being challenged by Thomas Pekarek, a Republican from Cleveland, and David Allen Pastorius, a Republican write-in candidate from Akron.
•?16th District: U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Wadsworth, who is facing Pete Crossland, a Democrat from Copley who has a long history of public service, including as a former Summit County Council member and state representative.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @swarsmithabj and on Facebook: www.facebook.com/swarsmith. Read the Beacon Journal’s political blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/ohio-politics.