OH-16 is the sort of district a Republican should find relatively easy to win, if history is any guide. For close to 60 years, the northeastern district’s seat was held by a Republican. But all that changed in 2008 when supposedly conservative Democrat John Boccieri swept into office on a platform of fiscal responsibility. Now, just two years later, Boccieri runs double digits behind his challenger, Jim Renacci, in the polls.
Battle ‘10 recently had the opportunity to catch up with Mr. Renacci and chat about the race one-on-one. A transcript of Mr. Renacci’s answers is below:
Battle ‘10: Why did you get into the race?
Renacci: I got into the race because I’m concerned for my children, and for the opportunities they don’t have. … [B]ut really, it’s for the same concerns that the people of the 16th district have. They’re concerned about jobs. They’re concerned about the spending, the out-of-control spending, and they’re concerned that John Boccieri is lockstep with Nancy Pelosi.
Battle ‘10: If there’s one bill that John Boccieri has shown himself to be in lockstep with Nancy Pelosi, which would it be?
Renacci: There’s two. Health care and cap and trade.
Battle ‘10: And those are bills that the people of the 16th District didn’t support?
Renacci: Well, the health care bill — there was a poll out prior to him taking the vote showing that the majority of people did not agree with the health care bill. And cap and trade is a job-killing bill in this district and this state that should never have passed.
Battle ‘10: Because of how reliant the District is on the coal industry?
Renacci: 88 percent of energy in Ohio is really coal-based.
Battle ‘10: So John Boccieri passed a bill that put 88 percent of people out of work?
Renacci: He passed a bill that’s going to put people out of work and kill jobs. It’s a job-killing bill.
Battle ‘10: So the big issue in this race is jobs?
Renacci: Jobs, jobs, jobs.
Battle ‘10: So what’s the key difference between you and Boccieri in your approach to returning jobs?
Renacci: First off, Government doesn’t create jobs. Employers create jobs. I’m an employer. I can tell you that not only myself but most businessmen and businesswoman in this district will not employ anyone new in this district because there’s so many issues with predictability and certainty. We don’t know what our health care costs are going to be. We don’t know what our tax rates are going to be. We don’t know what our interest rates are going to be. We don’t know what our energy costs are going to be. All these uncertainties are being driven by the Government’s agenda. What we really need to do is get Government to step back. Let the free market work. Bring certainty and predictability back, and that’s the one thing Government can do. It can at least give us some certainty and predictability instead of all these uncertainties.
Battle ‘10: So what policies would encourage that sort of predictability and certainty?
Renacci: First off, health care policy brings a big uncertainty. If you talk to people in the district, you’re gonna find out — I think there’s even a poll — eighty-some percent don’t even know how the health care bill affects them. That’s uncertainty. And business owners are being hit with anything from 20-plus percent increases to — I heard [from] one business — over 60 percent increases. So you’ve got to get health care out of the way. I’m not saying we don’t need health care reform. We do need health care reform. But this bill did nothing — 85 percent of our problems in health care reform’s cost, and this bill did nothing to bring costs down. In fact, it — as we’re seeing now — it’s causing costs to go up. Cap and trade — there are people out there fearful of what their energy costs are going to be. Uncontrolled and unbridled debt; what’s our interest cost going to be? I mean, let’s get the government to step up and bring some certainty particularly to where the business owners know that they can hire people and know what the future is.
Battle ‘10: So we’ve gone through the things that you would vote against. Anything you’d vote for?
Renacci: Well, I think we need to start getting our spending down, and our national debt down. … Congressman Pence has come up with a plan where we control our spending. … I believe that’s a good plan.
Battle ‘10: So let’s shift away from the policy and to the political ground. A few months ago, polls put you solidly ahead of John Boccieri. Has anything changed since then?
Renacci: The only poll that counts is the one on November 2nd. What I find when I go around the district is that people are upset — they’re concerned with John Boccieri and his voting record. They’re also upset that he says one thing and then votes another way. You know, [on] cap and trade, he went around the district telling people it wasn’t good for the district and then he voted for it. [On] Health care, he voted for it when the district didn’t want it. So he’s betrayed people twice in just those two votes, and people don’t forget. … I was at the county fair yesterday and I heard a bunch of people walk up to me and say, “We’ve got to get him out of here. His vote on health care, his vote on cap and trade, his spending is out of control.” So nothing’s changed.
Battle ‘10: If you were John Boccieri, how worried would you be?
Renacci: Well, John Boccieri’s biggest concern needs to be that he’s not representing the people; he’s representing Nancy Pelosi. He’ll have to think about that after the people make their decision on November 2nd.
Battle ‘10: Associated Content did a profile of this race and their main point was that Boccieri can’t be underestimated because of his funding. Why is he so well funded? Who stands to lose if he loses?
Renacci: His funding sources are clearly the union bosses, and he’s getting a tremendous amount of special interest money. From an individual standpoint, I think we’ve tracked that less than ten percent is coming from the district. I’m getting my money from the district; he’s getting his from outside the district. But again, it’s not the funding that determines who wins. It’s the people of the 16th district.
Battle ‘10: So who are the major players in the race? Who’s coming from outside the district?
Renacci: The major players are the people, because this is their seat, not John Boccieri’s seat. Now, if you’re asking me who is helping John Boccieri, if you go to his FEC reports, you’ll find there’s a tremendous amount of unions helping him. The current ads that were run (that I believe were false and misleading) came from AFSCME, and that’s a union. So that’s where it’s coming from.
Battle ‘10: On the union note, your website says you’re anti-card check. And obviously Ohio’s not a right-to-work state. Will card check have a similar effect at the national level that being non-right-to-work has in Ohio?
Renacci: As I go around the district, card check is a big issue. And I’m not anti-union, I’m anti-card check. … I think someone in the union has the right to a private vote, and that’s why I’m anti-card check. I grew up in a union family. My grandfather was a coal miner; he was in the union.
Battle ‘10: And have you spoken to union members who agree?
Battle ‘10: So on the issue of political philosophy, last time the district voted for someone who they thought was a conservative. Are they going to get fooled again?
Renacci: (laughs) Well, you know what’s interesting about me? My record stands up on its own. The difference between Jim Renacci and John Boccieri is that Jim Renacci has been a mayor of a community, he’s been a president of a city council. … With John Boccieri, what they have — other than his service to our country, which I commend him for — what they have is a career politician who votes primarily with his party. So my life’s an open book, I’m proud of it, but I don’t think there’s anything to fool when it comes to me.
Battle ‘10: And what is the message you plan on sending when you get to Washington if you win?
Renacci: I think the message is that Washington is broken. There’s a disconnect between the 16th district and Washington, and the decisions they’re making. They don’t realize the implications to the people in the 16th district and I’ve lived here for 28 years. I’ve raised a family here for 28 years. I’ve created jobs, employed people, and I do understand the implications of the Obama-Pelosi agenda, which Mr. Boccieri is in lockstep with.
Battle ‘10: And how would you describe what the Obama-Pelosi agenda is?
Renacci: Absolute big government. I mean, just look at the history of what’s gone on in the last two years: takeovers of General Motors, their hands are in banking, their hands are in health care, their hands are in energy. It’s big government.