Election gives Summit County a new Congressional lineup; new reps say they will look out for county

By Stephanie Warsmith
Beacon Journal staff writer

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U.S. Representative Jim Renacci, who is running against Betty Sutton in the 16th Congressional District race, speaks to a group of supporters at his election night headquarters at the Galaxy on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in Wadsworth, Ohio. (Ed Suba Jr./Akron Beacon Journal)

Summit County now has four Congressional representatives, rather than three.

All but one have names that may be unfamiliar to people in this area.

And none reside in the county.

Does this geographical distinction matter, though? A local political professor and the representatives themselves don’t think so.

“In reality, I think it is more symbolic than anything else, in the sense that it is imperative for those elected in the district to really represent that district,” said Steve Brooks, associate director of the University of Akron’s Bliss Institute of Applied Politics. “Whether they actually have a house there, it is in their best interest to work with and represent the interests that are in your district.”

Geauga County Prosecutor David Joyce, who was elected Tuesday to the 14th District in place of retiring U.S. Rep. Steve LaTourette, said he’ll do his best to represent his entire district, including the northern part of Summit County. He’s already begun meeting with mayors in northern Summit to learn more about this area.

“I look forward to doing the best in my God-given ability to represent the people of the 14th District,” Joyce said. “We all sort of sink or swim together.”

The other two new Congressional members for Summit are U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Wadsworth, who won a heated battle against U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton in the newly formed 16th District, and U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Cleveland, who was unopposed in the general election and whose strangely shaped 11th District starts in Cleveland and goes south, picking up part of Summit County. Rounding out Summit County’s delegation is U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, whose district number changed to 13, but who represented part of the county before the redrawing of the boundaries.

In the wake of this shake-up to Summit County’s Congressional lineup, the Beacon Journal talked to the new representatives about their plans once they take office and how they’ll represent Summit County, and to Sutton, D-Copley, about her loss and her plans for the future.

David Joyce

Joyce might be the new representative who is least known in Summit County because, up until this point, he’s been involved in politics at the local level.

Joyce, a Republican who lives in Novelty, has been the Geauga County prosecutor for 24 years, making a name for himself by handling some high-profile cases, including the Chardon High School shootings. The married father of three, soon to be an empty nester, said when LaTourette announced his retirement earlier this year, it seemed as if the timing was right to run and he wanted to continue the work that LaTourette had started.

“He was a tremendous congressman,” Joyce said of LaTourette, whom he has known for a long time. “I would like to continue in his footsteps — to be a person who will reach out to the other side and build a consensus.”

Joyce knows, though, that this will be a difficult task with the current division in Congress, which LaTourette mentioned when he announced his retirement. The power in Congress remained split after the election, with Republicans maintaining control of the House and Democrats retaining the edge in the Senate.

“I understand Steve’s frustrations,” he said. “This is a new challenge for me. I will continue to try to work with people and do things that are right for this area.”

Joyce said he’s hoping to work together with the Summit County delegation. He already knows Ryan and Fudge and has met Renacci.

“I’m a team player,” he said.

Jim Renacci

Renacci also said he’d like to see the four Summit County representatives collaborate.

“When it comes to Summit County issues, we will have to work together,” he said.

Renacci said he and Ryan talked at a dinner last week about how, if they both won, they’d have to “work together on the needs of Akron and Summit County.”

Renacci, a former councilman and mayor of Wadsworth, said many people consider Wadsworth to be a “bedroom community” of Summit County, though it’s technically over the border in Medina County.

When Renacci returns to Washington, he hopes to reconvene and try to increase a bipartisan group of Congressional members he assembled during his first term. He said the group fell off during the campaign season.

“I want to make it a working group in Congress that can get things accomplished,” he said.

Betty Sutton

Sutton had never lost a race before Tuesday.

Though admitting she was disappointed, she said she was happy overall with the results of the election, including President Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown being re-elected. Sutton won Brown’s former seat in Congress when he first ran for the Senate in 2006.

“This was a good day for the middle class,” she said of Election Day. “I will never be anything but happy about that. My election aside, there is great solace in that.”

Before Congress, Sutton served on the Barberton City Council and in the state legislature, returning to the area in 2000 to practice law after being forced out of the Ohio House of Representatives by term limits.

Many are speculating that Sutton will run again, either for Congress or a statewide position. For right now, she said she’s concentrating on finishing her term and then will see what happens next.

“I am an advocate,” she said. “My whole life has been about helping middle-class families ... I’m sure I will find a way to contribute in the future. This is how I use my life.”

Sutton thinks it’s a shame how drastically the Congressional districts were changed in Ohio and said the “lengths to which communities were cut up went beyond previous efforts to that end.

“I’m am confident that my colleagues Tim Ryan and Marcia Fudge, who will represent large parts of Summit County, will do a good job,” she said.

Sutton said Ryan will now be in charge of Barberton, which is where she’s from and where she never lost a single precinct in an election.

Marcia Fudge

Fudge, in an interview before the election, told the Beacon Journal she is excited to be representing Cleveland and Akron, the two largest cities in Northeast Ohio.

Fudge said she will look for ways to target resources and foster collaboration, rather than competition, between the two cities. She plans to open an office in Akron.

“The areas I represent are really not that different,” Fudge said. “I represent some of the very poor to some of the wealthiest. People have the same needs in Summit County as in Cuyahoga County. Maybe it’s a blessing to have both.”

Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or swarsmith@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow on Twitter: @swarsmith. Read the Beacon Journal’s political blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/ohio-politics. Beacon Journal reporter Marilyn Miller contributed to this report.

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