By Jim Ellis
March 23, 2017 — The open Republican gubernatorial primary to succeed term-limited Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) is producing an all-star political lineup. This week, another prominent GOP politico entered the impending contest, making the May 2018 primary a major political event.
Joining Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and attorney general and former US Sen. Mike DeWine as a gubernatorial candidate is four-term US Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth). The congressman officially announced that he will enter the statewide campaign, a move that had been speculated upon for months. It is further expected that Secretary of State Jon Husted will also soon declare his gubernatorial candidacy.
Renacci was first elected to the House in the 2010 Republican wave. He defeated then-freshman Rep. John Boccieri (D) by 11 percentage points. Two years earlier, Boccieri had converted the seat for the Democrats after 36-year veteran Congressman Ralph Regula (R-Canton) retired.
In 2012, redistricting paired Rep. Renacci with then-Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Copley) in a race that the freshman Republican claimed, 52-48 percent. The pairing was crafted because Ohio lost two seats in reapportionment. Ironically, Renacci and Sutton could conceivably face each other again since the latter is an announced Democratic gubernatorial candidate.
Renacci will leave his 16th District as an open seat in 2018, and though the CD has performed well for the incumbent it is the type of area that could come into play if the mid-term national political trends begin to swing toward the Democrats.
President Trump carried the seat by a whopping 56-40 percent, but other races have been much closer. For example, Mitt Romney won the district by a much tighter 53-45 percent margin. Sen. John McCain topped then-Sen. Barack Obama here, 51-47 percent, in the 2008 presidential election.
OH-16 occupies the area west of Cleveland and Akron, moving south beyond the city of Wooster before turning east to capture territory in and around Canton, before moving northeasterly to Interstate 76. Two Democratic seats, those of representatives Marcia Fudge (D-Warrensville Heights/Cleveland) and Tim Ryan (D-Youngstown), intertwine with the 16th around Cleveland and Akron, respectively.
Several state legislators and local officials, including state Senate President Pro Tempore Larry Obhof, are being mentioned as possible Republican candidates. The most prominent Democrat from the area is former state House Minority Leader Dean DiPiero, who hails from the city of Parma.
Tea Party activist and former US Senate nominee Sharron Angle announced that she will return to the intra-party political wars with a 2018 congressional primary challenge to four-term Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Carson City).
Interestingly, Angle took up President Trump’s cause in her announcement speech, but failed to acknowledge that her new opponent was actually Trump’s 2016 Nevada campaign chairman.
Angle came to national notoriety in her battle against Sen. Harry Reid (D) in 2010. Polling, which proved wrong, showed her in position for an upset, but a strong voter turnout effort from the Reid camp saw the race turn on Election Night by five full percentage points. She returned in 2016 to challenge then-Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson) for the US Senate Republican nomination, but lost in a landslide, 65-23 percent. Heck would go onto lose a close general election to Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto.
The latest Angle challenge looks to be another long-shot effort for a candidate who is losing support with every race in which she competes. It will be Angle’s second run for the state’s northern congressional district. In 2006, she challenged then-Secretary of State Dean Heller (now a US Senator) for the open Republican nomination and fell just 421 votes short from almost 69,000 ballots cast.
It is unlikely that Angle will become a serious threat to Rep. Amodei, but she may have the ability draw national Tea Party financial support should the Republican incumbents begin to draw the ire of the GOP voting base. Unless such a scenario unfolds to an alarming degree, Rep. Amodei will be considered a prohibitive favorite for re-nomination next June.