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Democrats sweep Summit County races

11/8/2012 - West Side Leader
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By By Kathleen Collins, Kathleen Folkerth and Stephanie Kist

Summit County incumbents win seats; APS, Norton fire, Woodridge levies pass

SUMMIT/MEDINA COUNTIES — Democrats came out on top locally and nationally in the Nov. 6 General Election.



Democratic President Barack Obama became the first black president four years ago and won the chance to serve a second term against Republican Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor, by 50 percent of the vote. In Ohio, Obama was the top vote-getter with 50 percent of the vote.

In Summit County, Democrats swept the top county races of executive, prosecutor, clerk of courts, fiscal officer, engineer, sheriff and all but one of the County Council seats up for election. In Medina County, incumbents mostly came out the victor.

According to the Summit County Board of Elections (BOE), voter turnout in Summit County was 70 percent. In Medina County, voter turnout was 72 percent, according to the Medina County BOE.

The following is based on the unofficial election results from the Summit and Medina counties BOE and the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office. For more election results, visit the Summit County BOE website at www.sum mitcountyboe.com or the Medina County BOE website at www.boe.co.medina.oh.us. For complete state results visit www.sos.state.oh.us.

SUMMIT COUNTY
City of Akron

Issue No. 3, a proposed charter amendment for the city of Akron, passed with 64 percent of the vote in favor of the amendment, which changes ward Council representatives’ terms to four years from the current two. All Council members’ seats — 10 ward Council members and three at-large Council members — will be up for election during the same election, along with the mayor, starting in 2015.

The amendment also stipulates that Council members’ raises now will be based on the average amount a private industry employee receives as calculated by the U.S. Department of Labor.

According to Mayor Don Plusquellic, the charter amendment will save $200,000 in taxpayer dollars for each eliminated election.

On election night, Plusquellic said Issue No. 3 wasn’t nearly as important as Issue No. 61 — the Akron Public Schools levy — and Issue No. 73 — the Summit County Children Services levy, both of which were victorious.

Plusquellic, however, said he is glad for the way the Akron charter amendment “changes the system” and that Akron voters didn’t fall for the negativity expressed toward the issue by what he characterized as the same group of outspoken city critics.

“Fortunately people were listening to the right people — community leaders, ministers … instead of these negative folks,” he said. “In the past people have listened to them sometimes, but in this case they didn’t listen to them.”

In addition to opposition to Issue No. 3 voiced in the community, the ballot language had been challenged by Akron City Councilman Bruce Kilby (D-Ward 2), who claimed it was misleading. The Supreme Court of Ohio decided to allow the ballot language to stand, stating the question to voters “properly describes the amendment.”

Among Kilby’s objections to the amendment presented in the suit, it stated, “the proposed ballot language is a ‘sales pitch,’ ‘electioneering’ and amounts to a ‘persuasive argument in favor of the proposed charter amendment.’”

Akron Public Schools levy

Issue No. 61, a proposed 7.9-mill tax levy for operating expenses for the Akron Public Schools (APS) District, was approved with 59 percent of the vote.

The levy will generate $19.28 million per year and cost the owner of a $75,000 home (the average home value in Akron, according to APS Treasurer Jack Pierson) an additional $15 per month. Collection will begin next year.

APS Superintendent David James said he was pleased and relieved upon the levy’s passage.

“If this would not have passed, we would have been in serious trouble,” he said.

The district still will need to make at least $8 million in cuts to balance the budget, but James said that is nowhere near as severe a situation as would have presented itself had the levy failed.

James attributed the levy’s passage to building grassroots support and the support of the business community, as well as APS staff’s understanding that the success of the local economy rides on the schools.

Plusquellic added his gratitude that the levy passed.

“I’m elated about Issue 61 — that was almost the most important issue in Akron,” he said. “I’m very happy and happy for the kids in our community that they will be well served by a strong school system.”

Copley Township

Voters in Copley approved Issue No. 55, a levy for the Copley Police Department, by 69 percent of the vote.

The 2-mill replacement levy will bring in $954,935 annually and cost the owner of $100,000 in appraised property value $61 a year, according to Copley Fiscal Officer Janice Marshall.

“We deeply appreciate the support of all the residents,” said Copley Police Chief Michael Mier. “On behalf of all our officers and dispatchers, it is a pleasure to serve the Copley community.”

The levy is a replacement rather than a renewal, but the amount brought in and the cost to property owners is the same as it would have been for a renewal, Marshall said. The levy will collect based on current property values for the three-year levy period, she added, which begins in 2013.

Mier said the levy is one of two that supports the department. The other is a 4.5-mill continuing levy. He said the money is used for police operations, such as salaries for police officers and dispatchers and equipment.

City of Norton

Norton voters approved three charter amendments on the ballot — Issues No. 28, 29 and 30. The proposed amendments were initiated by a group of citizens.

Issue No. 28, supported by 52 percent of voters, amends Article III, Section 3.06 of the city’s charter to change the way vacant seats on Council are filled. Currently, if a Council member resigns, the other members appoint a new Council member to the seat.

With approval of Issue No. 28, Council will still appoint a new member if there is less than nine months left in the term. If the term has nine months or more left, there will instead be a special election to fill the seat. The seat would be vacant until the election.

Issue No. 29, which was favored by 54 percent of voters, will add Section 3.20 to Article III of the charter to require Council meetings to be televised.

Upon passage of the issue, the city has 60 days to “arrange and commence public airings of all Council meetings, work sessions and workshops,” which would be televised “live, in their entirety, without censorship and/or editing.” The meetings also are to be repeated twice during the week.

Issue No. 30, which amends Article V, Section 5.03 and revises how contracts are approved in the city, was approved by 53 percent of voters. It states that no contracts of more than $15,000 can be awarded without approval of the Board of Control and the approval of no less than two-thirds of the Council members.

Voters in Norton also voted on a levy for the Norton Fire Department.

Norton’s fire station will soon be staffed around the clock now that voters have approved Issue No. 27, a four-year, 4.6-mill levy for fire and emergency medical services (EMS) for the Norton Fire Department. Election results show that 57 percent of Norton voters supported the issue.

“Oh my gosh, I’m just overwhelmed,” said Fire Chief Mike Schultz. “We’re very, very, very grateful.”

Schultz said he’s not sure why voters responded positively this time to the levy, which had been defeated in March.

“I’m not sure what we did that made the difference, but we did it,” Schultz said. “I’m just so thankful to the people of the community for supporting the guys and the department.”

Schultz said once the BOE certifies the results, the city can start bringing back laid-off firefighters and staff the fire station 24 hours a day.

“As soon as it’s official, we’ll start bringing guys back to work,” the chief said.

The victory came after Norton voters did not pass two issues in the November 2011 General Election that would have provided additional funding for the department. The city went back to voters in the March Primary Election, but its request for a single 4.6-mill, four-year levy was defeated by 52 percent of voters.

The new levy would generate $1,128,754 annually, Schultz said, and cost the owner of $100,000 in property $141 a year, which is $77 more than is paid now. However, Norton taxpayers will see some relief, as Norton City Council has already passed legislation to eliminate the city’s four current fire and EMS levies.

Norton City Schools

Voters living in the Norton City Schools District approved Issue No. 66, a new 1.9-mill tax levy for operating expenses. Results show that 53 percent of voters were in favor of the issue, which will cost the owner of $100,000 in property $58 a year, to help the district maintain its current slate of programs.

Superintendent David Dunn said he thinks the district was able to show voters that it has been fiscally responsible and that made the difference.

“We’ve done a good job of being responsible financially, and we’ve been able to demonstrate that to our community in what we’ve done in reducing costs,” Dunn said. “We have a great staff working hard, and our students continue to score well on state tests.”

Dunn said in years past, Norton voters have said that they would prefer the district come to them with levies for smaller amounts.

“They told us four years ago to do some things with health care and tighten our belt and come back, and that’s what we did,” he said.

Peninsula Village

Peninsula Village voters were asked for the third time in three years to approve a proposal to raise the income tax from 1 percent to 2 percent. Voters defeated Issue No. 52 by 55 percent.

According to Peninsula officials, the village currently has a 1 percent income tax. If it had been approved by voters, the village income tax would have increased to 2 percent, and most people who would have been subjected to the tax would not have noticed a change in their paychecks, according to village officials. Peninsula officials estimate only 23 percent of village residents — those who both live and work in the village — would have seen an increase in the tax they pay.

Woodridge Local Schools levy

The fourth time on the ballot for new money was a success in the Woodridge Local Schools District, where 55 percent of voters approved Issue No. 71, a 6.83-mill emergency levy.

Superintendent Walter Davis said he was thrilled with the outcome.

“We believe the community heard our message and that our work to help them understand what the levy meant in terms of what would have to be cut if it failed resonated with them, and they came out and supported us,” Davis said.

The levy will cost $209 for every $100,000 of home value, according to district officials, and will bring in $3 million annually for the district.

This was the fourth time in a year the district has sought additional operating funds. In the November 2011 General Election, 52 percent of voters were against a 10-year, 5.88-mill levy request. The district again went on the ballot in the March Primary Election with a five-year, 6.83-mill levy. In that election, 53 percent of voters were against the levy. Voters again defeated the same request by 51 percent of the vote during the Aug. 7 Special Election.

Earlier this fall, the Woodridge Board of Education voted on items that would be cut for the 2013-14 school year if the levy didn’t pass, such as eliminating all-day kindergarten and cutting staff, in an attempt to shave more than $1.8 million off the budget.

Richfield Township

Voters in Richfield Township saw the same road and bridge levy that was defeated in the Aug. 7 Special Election on the November ballot. This time, voters approved the levy — Issue No. 58 — by 52 percent of the vote.

The 2.3-mill, five-year levy for roads and bridges — which will fund the general construction, reconstruction, resurfacing and repair of roads and bridges — is a replacement of a 1.3-mill existing levy and an increase of 1 mill. The five-year levy will cost about $70 a year for the owner of a home valued at $100,000, according to township officials.

“We are thankful for the people that voted today,” said Trustee Laurie Peters Gilmore. “The funds are needed to maintain the services we currently provide.”

In the most recent collection year, the levy brought in $186,984. With the increase, it will generate $322,042, according to township officials.

Richfield Village

Richfield Village residents overwhelmingly approved Issue No. 54, an opt-out natural gas aggregation program, by 74 percent.

According to village officials, an aggregation program allows residents to band together to get a lower natural-gas rate than they could get on their own. The opt-out provision means that participation is not mandatory.

Summit County races

For Summit County executive, incumbent Democrat Russ Pry won re-election to the seat he’s held since 2007. Pry earned 63 percent of the vote to defeat Republican Frank Larson, the mayor of Munroe Falls.

Pry said he has worked to bring innovative programs to the county and voters noted that.

“The people of Summit County know we have worked very hard to make changes in the county, and they appreciate the fact we have worked with all of our mayors and all of our township trustees and not let politics get in the way of coming up with creative solutions,” he said.

He added his efforts to see the completion of a new facility for the Veterans Service Commission and to streamline government through shared services also was appreciated.

“I wouldn’t stay in this job if I didn’t think I could make a difference for the people that live in this county,” Pry said.

Larson did not wish to comment on election night.

Incumbent Democrat Sherri Bevan Walsh defeated Republican attorney Candace Kim Knox with 67 percent of the vote to claim her fourth term as Summit County prosecutor. Walsh was not available for comment at presstime.

In the race for Summit County sheriff, Democrat Steve Barry, a retired captain in the Sheriff’s Office, defeated Republican Randy Rivers for the position being vacated by retiring Sheriff Drew Alexander. Barry garnered 64 percent of the vote. He said he was humbled by the margin of victory and elated to be elected.

“This has been my professional life my whole adult life,” he said. “I’m honored to be chosen to be the next sheriff of Summit County.”

He said he will look to the challenge of working with a reduced budget and to addressing the issue brought to light by Alexander of inmates who, due to their mental conditions, shouldn’t be in the Summit County Jail.

He was thankful to the voters for their support.

“I’ll make every effort to never let them down,” he said.

Rivers couldn’t be reached for comment on election night.

In the race for Summit County fiscal officer, incumbent Democrat Kristen Scalise retained the seat to which she had been appointed in May 2011 upon the retirement of John Donofrio.

“I am just so excited and honored that the citizens of Summit County have elected me as their Summit County fiscal officer so that I can continue to serve them for the next four years,” she said.

Scalise defeated Republican Ron Antal with 65 percent of the vote.

“It’s a great experience running countywide,” Antal said. “I’m sure this isn’t the end of my political career.”

While extending his congratulations to Scalise and wishing her luck, Antal said he might cast his sights further and run for a larger seat in the future.

Scalise said she is looking forward to implementing new programs to help citizens and taxpayers meet their obligations.

Incumbent Alan Brubaker, a Democrat, retained the position of Summit County engineer with 61 percent of the vote.

“I would just like to thank the citizens of Summit County for their confidence in my ability to keep our roads and bridges safe,” he said.

Brubaker’s challenger, Republican Bruce Robinson, didn’t return a call seeking comment.

In the clerk of courts race, incumbent Democrat Dan Horrigan defeated Republican Kandi O’Connor with 61 percent of the vote.

Summit County Council races

All eight County Council district seats were up for election, as well as one at-large seat, with all incumbents winning.

For the at-large seat, incumbent Democrat Sandra Kurt handily defeated Republican Jane Davis with 60 percent of the vote.

In District 1, incumbent Democrat Nick Kostandaras defeated Republican Greg Roemer, the son of at-large County Councilman Bill Roemer, a Republican, with 57 percent.

In District 3, incumbent Republican Gloria Rodgers defeated Democrat Russell Iona with 61 percent of the vote.

In District 4, Democrat incumbent Frank Comunale defeated Republican Michael Hoover with 73 percent.

In District 5, Democrat incumbent Tamela Lee defeated Republican Lance Reed with 72 percent.

In District 7, incumbent Democrat Tim Crawford received 64 percent of votes to defeat Republican Larry Ashbaugh. This was Crawford’s sixth win for the seat he has held for 20 years.

Summit County Children Services Board levy

Summit County voters supported Summit County Children Services (SCCS) as it sought a renewal of its 2.25-mill levy, which provides 60 percent of the agency’s operating funds. On Election Day, 68 percent of voters were in favor of Issue No. 73. The six-year renewal will fund the protection and placement of abused and neglected children in Summit County.

SCCS Executive Director John Saros said he thinks the issue passed easily because local residents are concerned about children in the community. He also thinks voters responded to efforts made by the agency to trim expenses.

“That combination — the history, the new programs we’ve been offering, the reduction of expenses and the sense of partnership, with agencies and families and with taxpayers — are all something that we have been working towards to get to this point,” Saros said.

The 2.25-mill levy costs the owner of $100,000 in property about $69 a year, Saros said. The current levy expires in 2013, and the renewal levy would be in effect from 2014 to 2019.

Judges

In the race for the 9th District Court of Appeals judge seat, incumbent Democrat Clair Dickinson lost a close race to Republican challenger Jennifer Hensal by 51 percent of the vote. He’s held the seat since 2007.

Four Summit County Common Pleas judgeships also were up for election.

Incumbent Republican Common Pleas Court Judge Tammy O’Brien defeated Democrat Kathryn Michael, an Akron Municipal Court judge, by 55 percent for the unexpired term ending Jan. 1, 2015. Ohio Gov. John Kasich appointed O’Brien to the seat in April 2011 after it was vacated by Judge Brenda Burnham Unruh, who resigned due to health reasons and later died after a battle with colon cancer.

O’Brien said she loves serving on the court and is happy she will get to continue to serve.

“I’m very moved by the turnout and the way it’s turned out,” she said. “I was humbled by the appointment. It’s a job I love and I am very honored to be serving.”

Michael, who has been a judge in Akron for seven years, said she plans to “continue to do the good work I do as an Akron Municipal Court judge.”

Incumbent Democrat Paul Gallagher defeated Republican David Lombardi with 62 percent of the vote for the seat Gallagher has held since 2007.

Incumbent Democrat Thomas Teodosio defeated Republican Eddie Sipplen with 77 percent of the vote. Teodosio has been on the bench since 2007.

“I am extremely pleased with the turnout tonight and the support I received form the community,” said Teodosio. “It is a honor and blessing to wear the robe. It’s a wonderful position. I look forward to administering justice fairly and impartially.”

Democrat John Fickes was defeated by incumbent Republican Amy Corrigall Jones, who was appointed to the seat earlier this year when Judge Patricia Cosgrove retired, by 58 percent. Attempts at contacting Jones for comment were unsuccessful election night.

Two Summit County Common Pleas Court judges vied for the Summit County Probate Court judgeship for the unexpired term ending Feb. 8, 2015.

Democrat Elinore Marsh Stormer garnered 53 percent of the vote, defeating Republican Alison McCarty.

“I’m delighted that I won,” Stormer said. “I think we ran a very positive, issues-oriented campaign, and that seemed to resonate with the voters.”

Stormer said she is looking forward to building upon the community outreach initiatives started by current Probate Court Judge Todd McKenney — who was appointed upon the retirement of Bill Spicer — to bring the court into the community.

She said she will meet with McKenney in the near future and looks toward a smooth transition.

McCarty said she looks forward to continuing to serve on the Common Pleas bench.

“I certainly accept the choice of the voters, and I’m so grateful to all those who supported me,” she said.

Local state races

Voters saw some changes in local Ohio House districts due to redistricting on the ballot.

Current District 44 state Rep. Vernon Sykes, a Democrat, sought election to the District 34 seat and defeated Republican Ronya Jeanette Habash with 81 percent of the vote.

Current District 42 state Rep. Kristina Daley Roegner, a Republican, defeated Democrat Tom Schmida by 54 percent for the District 37 seat.

Current District 41 state Rep. Marilyn Slaby, a Republican, defeated Democrat Michael Kaplan with 55 percent of the vote for the District 38 seat.

Slaby said she was excited for the win and looks forward to the challenges that will come over the next few years.

“I would like to thank all who voted for me,” she said. “I look forward to continue working on jobs and education. Retraining for technology is something that I have been working on. This is something that I started a bill on and something I am into.”

An attempt at contacting Kaplan for comment was unsuccessful election night.

In the District 36 state representative race, incumbent Republican Anthony DeVitis, of Green, defeated challenger Democrat Paul Colavecchio.

DeVitis, who was appointed to the seat about a year ago, won with 53 percent of the vote.

“It’s always a humbling experience when the votes come in,” said DeVitis. “I am looking forward to representing the new 36th house district, and it will be an honor to serve my new constituents. I could not have done it without the help of family and friends and staff.”

Colavecchio said he was disappointed by the loss.

“I think I ran it as good as I could do,” he said. “I have given it my all and ran a positive campaign.”

In the District 28 state senate race, Democratic incumbent Tom Sawyer handily defeated Republican Robert Gregory Roush with 72 percent of the vote. Sawyer has served in politics for more than 35 years.

In the State Board of Education District 5 race, incumbent Bryan Williams, current District 7 state board representative, was the top voter-getter with 43 percent of the vote. He was followed by Marianne Gasiecki with 35 percent and Rich Javorek with 23 percent. Due to redistricting, parts of District 7 are now in District 5.

In the District 7 Board of Education race, Sarah Fowler was the top vote-getter with 60 percent of the vote. She was followed by James Collum with 26 percent and John Sans with 14 percent.





MEDINA COUNTY
Medina County races



Voters in Sharon and Granger saw a number of county races on the ballot.

Two Medina County Board of Commissioner seats were up for election with incumbents coming out the victors. Incumbent Republican Steve Hambley defeated Democrat Elisa Kazek by 64 percent.

Incumbent Republican Patricia Geissman defeated Democrat Mark Kolesar by 58 percent.

For the clerk of courts seat, Republican incumbent David Wadsworth defeated Democrat Maryann Chandler by 53 percent.

For the county recorder’s seat, incumbent Republican Colleen Swedyk defeated Democrat Jill Bell by 59 percent.

With the retirement of Sheriff Neil Hassinger next year, voters chose between Democrat John Detchon and Republican Tom Miller, with Miller winning with 55 percent of the vote.

County Treasurer John Burke, a Republican, defeated Democrat Joan Heller by 61 percent.

Running uncontested were Democrats County Coroner Neil Grabenstetter and County Prosecutor Dean Holman, and Republican County Engineer Mike Salay. Domestic Relations Court Judge Mary Kovack, a Democrat, also was uncontested.

Local state races

In the District 69 state representative race, incumbent Republican William Batchelder defeated Democrat Judith Cross by 61 percent.

In the District 22 state senate race, incumbent Republican Larry Obhof Jr. defeated Democrat James Riley by 60 percent.

Medina County Board of Developmental Disabilities levy

Voters in Medina overwhelmingly approved Issue No. 25, a 1.9-mill replacement levy to fund the Medina County Board of Developmental Disabilities (MCBDD), by 63 percent.

According to agency officials, the levy was not a new tax, and when it was originally approved in 1995, the MCBDD served 469 people each month. According to the agency’s website, more than 1,100 people now are served each month.

The levy will cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 an additional $30 per year, or $2.50 per month, Public Relations Coordinator Patti Hetkey said, and bring in about $4 million annually for operating expenses. Approval of the replacement levy allows collection of the millage voters approved in 1995 to be updated to reflect today’s value, she added.

Medina City School District

Voters who live in parts of Precinct C in Granger and Precinct B in Sharon saw Issue No. 22, an emergency 3.9-mill levy for 10 years for operating expenses for the school district, on the ballot.

The issue was defeated by 52 percent. According to the Medina County Auditor’s Office, the levy would have generated $4.6 million annually, costing the owner of a $100,000 home $122.85 annually.

Sharon Township road and bridge levy

Voters living in Sharon approved a five-year, 2-mill replacement levy for roads and bridges, Issue No. 16, by 58 percent.

The levy will generate approximately $431,400 a year and cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 about $63 annually, according to Mary Beth Guenther, Medina County deputy auditor.

Guenther noted previously the 2-mill levy cost the owner of a $100,000 home $52.35 annually.

The current 2-mill levy expires in December 2013, and collection for the replacement levy will begin where that one leaves off, said Sharon Fiscal Officer Anita Haas.

Wadsworth Library levy

Voters living in Sharon within the Wadsworth City School District also voted on Issue No. 23, a 1-mill levy for the Wadsworth Public Library. The levy passed with 55 percent of the vote.

The five-year levy will cost the owner of a home with an appraised value of $100,000 approximately $31.50 per year, according to Library Director Allen Nichols. The library had previously requested a 1.25-mill continuing levy in March, but the issue was defeated by 54 percent of voters, according to the Medina County Board of Elections. Prior to March, the last time the library asked voters for operating funds was in 2002, according to the library’s website.



STATE RACES/ISSUES

Three Ohio Supreme Court judge seats were up for election. Incumbent Republican Terrence O’Donnell was the only incumbent justice to retain his seat, as he defeated Democrat Mike Skindell by 69 percent.

Incumbent Democrat Yvette McGee Brown was defeated by Republican Sharon Kennedy by 57 percent.

Incumbent Republican Robert Cupp was defeated by Democrat William O’Neill by 52 percent.

The two state issues that were on the ballot were defeated by voters. State Issue No. 1, the constitutional convention issue, lost by 68 percent.

State Issue No. 2, the redistricting proposal, was defeated by 63 percent.



FEDERAL RACES

Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown will keep his U.S. Senate seat, as he defeated Republican Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel by 50 percent. Mandel received 45 percent and Independent Scott Rupert received 5 percent of the vote.

Due to congressional redistricting, which was required after the last Census, Ohio lost two congressional seats, dropping from 18 to 16, according to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s Office. To view a map of the new boundaries, visit www.sos.state.oh.us/SOS/reshape/Congressional/Enact edMap.aspx.

For District 11, incumbent Democrat Marcia Fudge was unopposed.

In the newly created District 13, Democrat U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, whose District 17 was consolidated into District 13 due to redistricting, defeated Republican Dr. Marisha Agana with 72 percent of the vote.

In District 14, with incumbent Republican Steven LaTourette announcing he planned to retire and not seek re-election, several candidates ran for the open seat. Coming out on top was Republican David Joyce, who won the seat with 54 percent of the vote. He was followed by Democrat Dale Blanchard with 39 percent, Green Party candidate Elaine Mastromatteo with 4 percent and Libertarian David Macko with 3 percent. Write-in candidates Erick Robinson, Steven Winfield and Aaron Zurbrugg also ran for the seat, with the number of votes for those candidates not available.

In the District 16 heavily contested race where the new district includes parts of the former District 13, incumbent Republican Jim Renacci defeated Democrat U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, who currently represents District 13 but would have represented District 16 because of the redistricting, with 52 percent of the vote.

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