Aug. 30, 2015 SIGN IN | REGISTER

GOP Tries New Approach in Race Against Boccieri

After a devastating loss last year in Ohio’s 16th district, Republican officials in Washington, D.C., and Ohio are promoting a different kind of candidate as they try to unseat freshman Rep. John Boccieri (D) in a historically GOP-leaning area in and around Canton.

They are turning to the candidacy of Jim Renacci, a businessman and former small-city mayor who is emphasizing his business background and a platform of fiscal conservatism and tax reductions.

Republicans are hoping for a better performance from Renacci next year than from 2008 nominee Kirk Schuring (R), a veteran state legislator who lost to Boccieri by 10 points — even though Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) narrowly carried the district in the 2008 presidential balloting, Schuring had a political base in populous Stark County (Canton), and most of the state Senate district Boccieri then represented, including his hometown at the time, lay outside the 16th.

During an interview Wednesday at the National Republican Congressional Committee, Renacci said that “people are unhappy in the 16th district right now” and “clearly want someone who has a business background and someone who can show that they’ve made a payroll and they’ve gotten up in the morning and said, ‘How do I make sure that my employees are taken care of and their health benefits are taken care of?’”

“With that kind of background, I think it will be a different race,” said Renacci, whose business interests have included owning and operating nursing homes and running an arena football team.

“I have 27 years of experience of creating jobs, building businesses, running businesses, covering payroll, understanding health care,” Renacci said, describing himself as someone “who has actually steered the ship before in troubled waters.”

Renacci’s business background has drawn attention and criticism from Democrats, with Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokeswoman Gabby Adler saying in a statement that Renacci has a “record of failed management and questionable business practices.”

Renacci criticized Boccieri’s voting record, including his vote in June for a cap-and-trade climate change bill, narrowly passed by the House, that most Republicans portrayed as a job-killing tax increase.

“At this point, I do not believe Congressman Boccieri is representing district 16,” Renacci said. “I believe, at this point, we are being represented by [Speaker] Nancy Pelosi.”

Boccieri and most Democrats supported cap-and-trade as an effort to build a new clean-energy economy and wean the nation from foreign energy sources. When the House passed the measure in June, Boccieri said it included language to establish a $30 billion fund to assist small- and medium-sized firms as they transition to clean-energy operations.

In an interview Wednesday, Boccieri said that “investments in alternative energies are going to help create jobs in Ohio, like they’re already doing in my district.” He pointed to a recent announcement by Rolls-Royce that it will expand its fuel cell research operations in North Canton.

“I’m focused on doing my job here as a Congressman. [Renacci] wants to talk about me. I want to talk about the people of this district and the job I was elected to do,” Boccieri said. “He’s saying a lot about what he’s against, but what is he actually for?”

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