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2018 was a big election year in Ohio. Republicans held onto all five statewide executive offices including governor and super majorities in both the Ohio House and Senate. But there were a few bright spots for Democrats, among them the reelection of U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown and the election of two Democrats to the Ohio Supreme Court.With election 2018 over, the focus now shifts to governing. Stay connected with the latest on politics, policies and people making the decisions at all levels affecting your lives.

GOP Race for the 16th Congressional District Takes on a Nasty Tone

Photo of candidates on stage
WKSU public radio
Close to 200 people showed up to hear the three GOP candidates for the 16th Congressional District (l to r Anthony Gonzalez, Michael Grusenmeyer and Christina Hagan) debate.

A rare 16th Congressional District Republican debate last night revealed little difference on the issues between the two front runners. But attitude was a different matter. And, he third candidate on the stage stood apart on both issues and attitude.

On issues like gun rights, immigration, and lower taxes, Anthony Gonzalez and Christina Hagan are in near lock step. Take their separate but similar points on the federal government:

“I believe that the federal government has expanded beyond any form that the would make sense to our founding fathers today,” said Gonzalez.

“The federal government has far outgrown its purpose and its nature,” added Hagan.

map of 16th District
The 16th District, which once was dominated by Stark County, now contains just a sliver of Stark and a lot of areas that spread North and East.

But with Election Day a week away, the race for the GOP nomination for the 16th congressional seat has grown increasingly nasty. Ads supporting Gonzalez, the former NFL player endorsed by the Ohio Republican Party, paint Hagan, a 29-year-old state lawmaker, as a “swamp creature.” Hagan has filed a federal elections complaint accusing Gonzalez of colluding with a super PAC funded by his father. And she challenged him at last night’s debate in Wadsworth on the claim that she inherited her Statehouse seat from her father.

“He has insulted every single voter that put me in the statehouse to represent them. He has underestimated their desire and their knowledge of their legislator, their representative and the person fighting for them.”

Gonzalez stuck largely to his biography as the successful son of Cuban immigrants who supports President Trump’s call to end DACA, build a border wall and allow only immigrants with certain skills into the country.

“You’re going to serve our national security interests and our economic interests -- that’s what merit means to me and I’m vehemently against amnesty of any kind.”

Hagan, too, supports the wall, and she’s running as the self-proclaimed Trump candidate.  And as the most gun-rights candidate -- noting her husband gave her an AR-15 for her birthday.

Credit RICHARD SENFTEN / WKSU public radio

But the third candidate on the stage, Dr. Michael Grusenmeyer, set himself apart on both immigration and guns. And he cautioned that voters “are adamant about doing something to protect our kids in schools. Unless you get ahead of this issue, I think we’re going to be in big trouble in November.”

His warning drew only tepid applause.

The 16th District is one of just two open seats in Ohio. Current Congressman Jim Renacci is running for U.S. Senate.