This race, given Democrat John Boccieri’s win in 2008, would not seem like it would be close in an ordinary election year. However, there is a great deal of voter discontent and Republican Jim Renacci aims to wrest the race away seat the freshman representative. Renacci is eager to highlight their differences in a race that’s already seen a good deal of rancor between the two candidates.
Candidates for Ohio’s 16th Congressional District (two-year term)
(This district includes Stark, Medina, Wayne and Ashland counties, as well as the cities of Canton, Massillon, Alliance, Ashland, Medina and Wooster. See a boundary map here.)
Candidate: John Boccieri
Political experience: Prior to beginning his current term as representative for the 16th District, Boccieri served eight years in the Ohio state legislature. He is a member of the Agriculture Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The district has the largest concentration of dairy farmers in the state, according to his website; he is a member of the Congressional Dairy Caucus.
Professional experience: Rep. Boccieri is a current Major and C-130 pilot in the Air Force Reserve and has served 16 years in the Air Force.
Key issues: Boccieri takes a decidedly moderate position on many issues; he’s for tax cuts, so long as they are targeted and he’s clear cut on his support for gun-owner rights. He voted against the bank bailouts and is against privatizing Social Security.
He’s focused on education and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in the issues section of his website, touting his support for the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, which he argues is a cost-saving program that will help pay down the deficit. On the wars, he reminds voters he has served in both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom and that, as prevailing attitudes and current troop commitments suggest, he is in favor of troops returning from both fronts “safely, honorably, and soon,” according to his website.
Endorsements: Boccieri is listing several organizations among his endorsements, including Veterans & Military Families for Progress, the American Nurses Association, the Tri-County Regional Labor Council, AFL-CIO, Buckeye Firearms Association, Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, Ohio Association of Public School Employees, Ohio AFL-CIO, Ohio and Vicinity Regional Council of Carpenters.
Chances of maintaining his seat: Boccieri handily won his race in 2008, so he’s not a weak candidate. However, the race has been bloody, and the two candidates have raised nearly equal amounts of cash (about $1.4 million as of late August); to date Boccieri retains the larger portion, according to OpenSecrets.org, giving him the financial advantage in the end game. But money could be a problem, too, as Renacci pressured Boccieri through press releases to gift away funds received from Rep. Charles Rangel, a Democrat under fire for alleged ethics violations, according to CantonRep.com.
Candidate: Jim Renacci
Political experience: A former firefighter, Renacci served on the Wadsworth Board of Zoning Appeals, as president of Wadsworth’s City Council, and as mayor from 2004 to 2008.
Professional experience: Renacci was at one time a CPA, and he went on to form LTC Management Services, which owned and operated regional nursing home facilities. He has owned and been general manager of Arena Football League’s Columbus Destroyers and he served as a consultant to troubled businesses.
Key issues: Renacci makes no bones about spending, suggesting in the “Issues” section of his website that Boccieri voted 94 percent of the time with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He contends that his opponent’s record is one of spending, and that congressional spending is out of control.
Renacci has a lot to say about taxes as well, making the case that 2002 and 2003 tax cuts should be made permanent, that the so-called “death tax” and Alternative Minimum Tax must be repealed, that capital gains should not be increased, and that he is in favor of either the flat or fair-tax efforts.
He has an interest in foreign affairs, encouraging support for Israel, putting Iran on notice, and he has some definite thoughts on how to establish peace in the Middle East. Additionally, he is against amnesty for illegal aliens in the United States.
Endorsements: Along with a lengthy list of local endorsements, Renacci has been endorsed by Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Ohio Right to Life, Ohio Society of CPAs, the Akron Beacon Journal, the Canton Repository, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell.
Chances of unseating John Boccieri: The 16th District is a historically Republican-held district, and Renacci has the advantage of an anti-incumbent mood. An independent poll by the U.S. Citizens Association in May showed Renacci had a 13-point lead over Boccieri, as reported by Forbes. The race has gone quite sour since, with Boccieri accusing Renacci of breaking federal campaign law, according to CantonRep.com and Renacci suing the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees for defamation, according to CQ Politics. Renacci should be able to sustain that polling advantage as Boccieri was a key vote in the unpopular Health Reform bill, but with the campaigns becoming mired in lawsuits and accusations, it’s difficult to determine whom voters would now favor months out from the May polling info.
Key Differences between Jim Renacci and John Boccieri
Taxes and spending: A potential weakness in Renacci’s campaign may be that he takes every opportunity to negatively highlight his opponent’s stances, undercutting his own agenda. When it comes to taxes and spending, however, he is comprehensive in stating how he’d cut taxes or end tax programs such as the death tax and AMT to help taxpayers out during the recession, and his spending section is designed to serve as an indictment of Boccieri’s voting record. In that respect, his campaign’s negative slant succeeds in contrasting the two candidates and provides lots of red meat for his base. Boccieri counters by emphasizing his tax-cutting goals, including extending the first-time home buyer’s tax, making permanent the Research and Development Tax Credit, and extending business credits.
Jobs: Boccieri touts the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, which Renacci opposes, as a job-creation tool. He suggests that his work in Congress helped keep home owners in their homes, encourage businesses to do more hiring and extend unemployment to those in need. Renacci emphasizes in his plan that he would lower taxes, create less government intervention and fight government spending to reduce unemployment, a condition he blames largely on Washington leaders such as Boccieri.
Social Security: Renacci believes it is imperative that Social Security reform be enacted immediately, while noting he opposes privatization and any legislation that would raise taxes. He suggests that the “Obama-Pelosi economic agenda” is responsible for the reduction in the number of workers paying in, and that Social Security has reached a tipping point. Boccieri also opposes privatization, but suggests that Social Security is solvent with long-term challenges and believes careful steps must be taken in future reforms, along with encouraging today’s workers to prepare to augment their Social Security benefits for a comfortable retirement.
Ohio’s 16th U.S. Congressional District
Location: The Ohio 16th District is in northeast Ohio, south of Cleveland and Akron. It includes Canton, Alliance and Ashland and is cast widely across Stark, Wayne, Medina and Ashland counties.
2008 results: Boccieri defeated Ohio senate member Kirk Schuring 55 percent to 45 percent in 2008.
Demographics: According to the U.S. Census, 93.9 percent of the district is white, 5.7 percent black, 1.2 percent Hispanic, 0.9 percent Asian, and 0.7 percent American Indian or Alaska Native.
The Cook Partisan Index gives the Ohio 16th District a rating of R+4, awarding an small edge to Republican candidates in this district.