MIDDLEBURG HEIGHTS, Ohio — In this part of the Buckeye State, voters have a genuine choice between a red and blue candidate.
There’s Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Ohio), who was elected in 2010 as part of the GOP wave, and Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio), who hails from the state’s current 13th District and won her first congressional race as part of the 2006 Democratic takeover.
Ohio state officials drew the district after reapportionment forced the state to lose two House seats. The contest is one of just 27 “toss up” races, according to The Washington Post House race tracker, making it one of the most expensive contests in the country. Adding some intrigue to the contest, it is one of just two races where an incumbent faces another incumbent.
Both Renacci and Sutton are reliable party voters: He votes with Republicans 92 percent of the time, while she votes with Democrats 94 percent of the time. Renacci said the records mean voters have two distinct options.
“What she believes and what I believe are totally different,” he said in a recent interview. “I tell people in the district that we’re polar opposites, so you have an easy choice. This isn’t a race between two colleagues who are conservative. This is a race between someone who’s conservative but who’s worked across the aisle many, many times and then somebody who’s definitely voted 98 percent of the time with the Pelosi-Obama program.”
Proving how critical the race is to maintaining the House Republican majority, Sutton is now the focus of more than $1 million in attack ads paid for by the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC led by former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) and former Rep. Vin Weber (R-Minn.), who are helping GOP candidates nationwide. The Sutton ad buy is the group’s largest and its only targeted campaign in Ohio.
But Sutton isn’t worried and sees the influx of conservative advertising money as a signal that Republicans are running scared.
“I’ve never seen a poll that shows me behind, and they’re getting worried and their attacks are reflecting that they’re going to do everything they can to stop me,” Sutton said this week in an interview. “But I know that Ohioans want a positive vision for the future and someone who’s proven that they can get things done.”
As of the summer, Renacci led the money race with about $2.1 million raised; Sutton had banked at least $1.5 million, according to campaign finance records. But both campaigns are expected to spend heavily on television advertising on what is now the most-saturated TV market in the country for political advertising.
Read more from Renacci and Sutton later today here in 2chambers. For now, let’s recap the first four days of #5in5:
Distance traveled as of Thursday night: 877 miles.
Places visited Thursday: Jacobsburg and Bridgeport, Ohio, before overnighting in Middleburg Heights, Ohio.
Gas prices: $3.85 for a gallon of regular unleaded at a Marathon gas station in Bridgeport.
Number of times I’ve heard Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” while scanning radio stations since starting the trip Sunday night: 11 times. (Thankfully just once on Thursday.)
In case you missed it Thursday: Make sure to read my interview with former Rep. Charlie Wilson (D-Ohio) and my conversation with Reps. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who campaigned together in southeast Ohio on Thursday.
Where am I going Friday?: Parma Heights, Ohio.