Rep. Betty Sutton (D)
Ohio 13th District
Fifty years ago, most of the people of metro Cleveland were clustered in the city itself, in tightly packed blocks of houses above the Cuyahoga River valley and its giant steel mills. Around the city, were some comfortable suburbs, and beyond them, miles of farm fields before you encountered the nearby industrial cities—Akron, the “Rubber Capital” with its Firestone, B. F. Goodrich and Goodyear tire factories, and Lorain, a sort of mini-Cleveland on Lake Erie with steel mills lining the narrow Black River. Since then, the population of Cleveland has fallen by half, and the metropolitan area has spread out over the northern Ohio countryside. The suburbs now spread from Cleveland to Akron without interval. The shoreline from Cleveland to Lorain has been filled in. Medina County, between Lorain and Akron, has also been transformed from farmland to suburbia. Only the Cuyahoga River valley between Cleveland and Akron has been off-limits to development, protected by the creation of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The economy has changed as well. In 1950, Cleveland depended on heavy manufacturing, especially steel, and Akron was reliant on tires. Today, most of the steel mills are shuttered or torn down, most of the old tire factories have been converted to other uses, and in 2005, Ford closed its assembly plant in Lorain. But Akron has memorialized the past in the National Inventors Hall of Fame and has developed itself as the “Polymer Center of America,” with 80% of the nation’s polymer research and a first-class polymer engineering program at the University of Akron. In 2007, the city began an innovative project to turn sewage sludge into electricity. Downtown Akron has been revived by entertainment areas, the University of Akron, and some upscale housing. Still, the city’s population dropped by 7,300 from 2000 to 2006.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 13th Congressional District of Ohio is made up of much of this metro Cleveland area, though none of the city itself. It includes the west side of Akron and its western suburbs. The lines separating it from the 14th and 17th Districts in Akron’s Summit County are absurdly convoluted. It encompasses the northern and eastern parts of Lorain County, including Lorain and Elyria just to the south; the southern tier of suburban townships in Cleveland’s Cuyahoga County—Strongsville, North Royalton, Broadview Heights; and the northern tier of suburban townships in Medina County, including Brunswick. Fifty years ago, this area would have been Republican, with Democratic precincts in Akron and Lorain. Today, as Clevelanders have spread far and wide, it is Democratic, though not overwhelmingly so. Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush twice got 44% of the vote here. In 2008, Democrat. Barack Obama won the district with 57%.
Rep. Betty Sutton (D)
Elected: 2006, 2nd term.
Born: July 31, 1963, Barberton .
Home: Copley Township.
Education: Kent St. U., B.A. 1985, U. of Akron, J.D. 1990.
Family: Married (Doug Corwon); 2 children.
Elected office: Barberton City Cncl., 1989-91; Summit Cnty. Cncl., 1991-92; OH House of Reps., 1992-2000.
Professional Career: Practicing atty., 2001-06.
The congresswoman from the 13th District is Democrat Betty Sutton, elected in 2006. Sutton grew up in Barberton as the youngest of six children. Her mother was a library clerk and her father a boilermaker. She graduated from Kent State University and then earned a law degree from the University of Akron. In 1989, while still in law school, Sutton won an at-large seat on the Barberton City Council and in 1991, was elected to the Summit County Council. In 1992, at age 29, she became the youngest woman to win a seat in the state House, where she worked on employment issues like health care, pensions and retirement benefits. In 1993, after speaking publicly about an abusive first marriage, she worked to pass legislation to protect women from domestic violence. She fought passage of a Republican bill to cut workers compensation benefits and then led a referendum to repeal the law. She served in the Legislature until term limits forced her out in 2000 and afterward worked as a labor lawyer.
|Betty Sutton (D)||192,593||(65%)||($719,608)|
|David Potter (R)||105,050||(35%)||($28,165)|
|Betty Sutton (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (61%)
When Democratic Rep. Sherrod Brown announced that he would run for the Senate, Sutton quickly emerged as a leading contender to succeed him. She faced significant opposition in the primary from former eight-term U.S. Rep. Tom Sawyer and from shopping-center heiress Capri Cafaro. Sawyer had good name recognition but struggled to raise money and was dogged by his 1993 vote for the North American Free Trade Agreement, which was blamed for sending many of the district’s manufacturing jobs overseas. Cafaro, who had run unsuccessfully in 2004 against Republican U.S. Rep. Steven LaTourette, poured more than $2 million of her own money into the primary. Sutton ran aggressively as an anticorruption crusader. She criticized Sawyer for taking privately financed trips and Cafaro for her ties to a federal investigation of former Democratic U.S. Rep. James Traficant of Ohio, who had been convicted of 10 counts of bribery in 2002. Cafaro had been an executive of a company run by her father, who had pleaded guilty in 2001 to bribing Traficant.
Sutton enjoyed strong backing from organized labor, but an endorsement from EMILY’s List proved just as decisive. The group’s Ohio affiliate built grassroots support and sent out direct mail against Sawyer. Sutton won the eight-way primary with 31%, ahead of Cafaro with 25% and Sawyer with 22%. In the general election, her Republican opponent was Lorain Mayor Craig Foltin, an accountant who campaigned for sound fiscal management. National Republicans were interested in his candidacy because he had won two races in a Democratic city and had raised an impressive $250,000 for his last mayoral campaign. Democrats attempted to tie Foltin to Republican scandals in Ohio, and Sutton said there was “rampant corruption” in Lorain. She raised twice as much as Foltin, including more than $300,000 from EMILY’s List donors. The poor political environment for Republicans and the district’s large union presence proved too much for Foltin to overcome. Sutton won 61%-39%.
As a freshman, Sutton impressed Democratic leaders and won a seat on the exclusive, leadership-run Rules Committee. In June 2008, the House passed her bill mandating nationwide access to automated external defibrillators, a proposal suggested by an Akron cardiologist. She joined other Ohio Democrats as an outspoken foe of President Bush’s free-trade agenda, and she was a leader in pushing for organized labor’s “card check” bill, which would bypass the traditional union election process and allow workers to be certified as a bargaining unit if a majority signed cards indicating their support for a union.
In 2008, Sutton was re-elected easily. In early 2009, Democratic leaders gave her a seat on the influential Energy and Commerce Committee. In March, she introduced in committee a “cash for clunkers” bill that would give vouchers of $3,500 to $4,500 to people trading in old cars for more gas-efficient vehicles. The bill quickly passed the committee and gained momentum in late April, when Sutton agreed to drop provisions requiring that cars purchased with help from the legislation be made in North America.