16th Congressional District Race is a Run for an Open Seat
No matter how the vote goes next month there will be a new face in Washington from Ohio’s 16th congressional district. Incumbent Jim Renacci decided to run for U.S. Senate instead of seeking re-election and both major party nominees to replace him are political newcomers.
Susan Moran Palmer won the Democratic nomination and Anthony Gonzalez the Republican nod. Neither has held public office before.
Palmer says she’s running because she’s believes she’s the best qualified candidate from either party. She especially cites her long, uninterrupted residency in Ohio as an advantage in understanding the district. And her two decades in medical devices and healthcare support businesses as valuable. “I’ve raised my family here. I’ve run my business here. I’m very much a reflection of the district. My husband and I both grew up here. We know the trials and tribulations of the State. And we know how to solvethese issues.”
Make-up of the District
Palmer also says she’s concerned that Gerrymandering has made what’s now the 16th District vulnerable to outside political interests, and wants to change that.
David Cohen, is Assistant Director of the University Of Akron’s Bliss Institute of Applied Politics. He says the upcoming election is one in which pushback against an existing political order could succeed. “It’s a mid-term election. There’s a lot of enthusiasm. I think on both sides, but particularly on the Democratic side. And it has the potential for a Democratic wave. A wave election can break the stronghold of gerrymandering."
Palmer is campaigning on a range of subjects. One focus is on revitalizing the region’s competitiveness. “We need to look at infrastructure investments to bring manufacturers back to the Midwest. We need to focus on lowering our electrical cost. That’s what manufacturers look for. That’s how countries stay competitive, it’s with their infrastructure investments.
Another concern is the burden on the economy of healthcare costs. “The American public fully supports controlling the cost side of health care. Now why haven’t we already? We’ve moved into what I call a donor democracy. So you’ve got a lot of pharmaceutical companies, medical companies giving money to candidates to support their position of no cost containment.”
Political Scientist David Cohen says Susan Palmer’s healthcare background may be a credibility-asset for her in the campaign. On the Republican side of the ballot, he says Anthony Gonzalez could benefit from part of his professional background too, but in a different way. “I think Anthony Gonzalez has a significant advantage because, even though he is a political newcomer he has something that Susan Moran Palmer doesn’t have. That is built in name recognition. To a certain extent Anthony Gonzalez is a celebrity He’s a very well-known former football player. And that kind of exposure is priceless for a political candidate.”
Gonzalez played football at Ohio State and in the NFL. He says he’s not sure how significant that may be, but it’s not why he decided to run. “For me it all starts with just a deep love and appreciation for northeast Ohio and everything it has meant for me and my family. My family emigrated here from Cuba in 1960. The state of Ohio welcomed us with open arms. It’s all been about kind of the values that I think make northeast Ohio great.”
Gonzalez says the system is broken inside, it’s up to Congress to fix it, and it will take give-and-take on both sides of the aisle to make that happen. He favors the “wall” and enforcement of immigration laws. But he wants children who are brought to the U.S. illegally through no fault of their own to be able to stay until they can be legally processed for admission.
His campaign focus
Healthcare is a priority issue for Gonzales. He says: “The healthcare system is way too expensive and it feels patently unfair to people in this country. So that’s one we have to address.”
Trade and workforce is another area of concern. “The global trading system needs major reform. It needs to be more balanced and more fair to, candidly, northeast Ohio.”
For voters in the 16th District
With no incumbent in the race, the choice in November will be which newcomer to elect. And since it will be in a midterm election that could include a national wave for the opposition party, might the 16th be a seat in Congress that flips? The Bliss Institute’s David Cohen: “The 16th Congressional District is not quite as safe in a wave election as some Congressional districts in more rural areas. But Jim Renacci won this seat two years ago with a thirty point spread. So, it’s a pretty safe seat.”