U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci spoke Monday at the annual Lincoln Day Dinner hosted by Hancock Countys Republican Party. Renacci is a Republican candidate for Democrat Sherrod Browns seat in the U.S. Senate. (Photo by Randy Roberts)

By DENISE GRANT
STAFF WRITER

Even in the “reddest of red Hancock County,” Republicans are concerned about stopping the “blue wave” that Democrats are hoping for this year, and are working to rally GOP voters.

That description of Hancock County came from Monday’s Lincoln Day Dinner hosted by the county’s Republican Party. The event featured U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci as the guest speaker. Renacci, a Republican from Wadsworth, abandoned a bid for governor to seek election to the U.S. Senate seat held by Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown since 2007.

Renacci said it didn’t take long for the news to reach him that Republican State Treasurer Josh Mandel had dropped out of the Senate race. Mandel left the race in January, citing family reasons.

Renacci said several Republicans, including President Donald Trump, encouraged him to switch races and challenge Brown. The concern was that Brown, if left unpressed for re-election, would be able to channel his campaign funds into other Ohio races.

Renacci said the U.S. House of Representatives, where he serves, is working and has passed a lot of bills. He said the House passed about 370 bills last year, but only about 17 made it through the U.S. Senate.

“So here’s the problem, you got the House working, and you got the Senate not working. That’s really where we need a change, is in the U.S. Senate,” he said. “We really need somebody to help his (Trump’s) agenda and help push his agenda, and it’s really positive that he’s willing to come out and push me in this race.”

Before he gets a chance to challenge Brown in November, Renacci faces a heavily contested Republican primary election. There are five GOP candidates on the May ballot: Renacci; Melissa Ackison of Marysville; Don Eckhart of Galloway; Mike Gibbons of Fairview Park; Dan Kiley of Cincinnati; plus write-in candidate Timothy Pinion.

Brown will be unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Renacci said he has a proven record of beating Democratic incumbents. And on Monday, he said, “It’s time to retire Sherrod Brown.”

Renacci has represented Ohio’s 16th Congressional District since 2011. His current term ends in 2019. Prior to being elected to Congress, he served as mayor of Wadsworth and as president of the city’s council. He also served on the Wadsworth zoning appeals board.

Renacci won election to Congress in 2010 by defeating incumbent Democrat John Boccieri. Redistricting forced Renacci to challenge a second incumbent Democrat in 2012, when he defeated Rep. Betty Sutton from Ohio’s 13th House District.

Ohio’s 16th Congressional District is located in the north-central portion of the state and includes all of Wayne County and portions of Cuyahoga, Medina, Portage, Stark and Summit counties.

Renacci called Brown one the three top liberal-voting senators, but said Brown is going to be hard to beat.

“We are a right-center state, and there is no way that Sherrod Brown should be our senator. And he’s not going to get away with these stories that he’s moderate. He’s just not going to get away with it. I know his voting record and I will compare my voting record to his voting record any day, and in the end we will be able to make a big difference,” Renacci said.

“Here’s the other big issue I think is important” in 2018, Renacci said. “We have a lot of good candidates running for some seats that we have to make sure in Ohio we win. These seats will determine redistricting. … And the Democrats are going to spend a whole bunch of money making sure a couple of these guys don’t get elected. And if we don’t put up a wall against Sherrod Brown and he gets a free pass, then all that money Sherrod Brown has is going to come rolling in to make sure these (GOP) guys don’t get elected.”

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