CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Candidates in one of Ohio's most hotly contested congressional races debated Wednesday afternoon before Cleveland's City Club.
Incumbent 13th District Representative Betty Sutton, a democrat, and incumbent 16th District Congressman Jim Renacci oppose each other in a race to determine who will represent the newly drawn 16th district.
The new district drew in a part of Sutton's old one creating a boundary that includes parts of Cuyahoga, Summit, Stark, Portage, Medina and Wayne Counties.
When the election is over only one of them will remain in Washington.
Both agreed on Wednesday that job creation and reducing the national deficit are priorities. Their solutions differ greatly, falling along familiar partisan lines.
"Washington has a lot of politicians who like to cozy up to lobbyists, Washington has a lot of politicians who are there to enrich themselves, that's not who I am and that’s not who I will ever be," said Sutton in her introduction.
"It is about the 23 million people who are looking for full time employment right now. It's about the 47 million people who are on food stamps today. It's about the 50 million people who now, really are poor. That's what this is about," said Renacci.
Renacci told the City Club audience, in which there were local business owners, that he believes uncertainty from Washington has helped hold back growth and job creation.
"If you are a small business owner today, you don’t know what your taxes are going to be in January, you don’t know what new regulations are coming down the road, you don’t know what your health care costs are going to be you don’t have any idea so how can you ever get certainty and predictability when the government doesn’t give us that," said Renacci.
Sutton called the middle class the engine of job creation.
"I believe in simple economics," said Sutton, adding, "Jobs are created when demand for products is there and demand is created by fighting for a vibrant middle class."
Both also differed tremendously on their tax policies.
"Raising taxes is not the answer," said Renacci, "I mean if you think about Washington you should not want anyone to send any more money down to Washington until Washington learns to fix what they are spending today," he continued.
He attacked Sutton who voted to continue tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, which she now wants to repeal.
"They held the middle class tax cuts hostage to those tax cuts for the super wealthy," explained Sutton, saying she had no choice but to vote for the extension, then questioned why new jobs have not been created already.
"I think [the tax cuts] should have expired then, and by the way, they have been in effect so where are the job, where are the jobs from the jobs creators, let’s put more money into the hands of the middle class," said Sutton.
Renacci also criticized Sutton for her support of the “cash for clunkers” incentive, which he claims has driven up the price of used cars.
"If you take the 15-month period of cash for clunkers we didn’t sell any more cars than we did two years prior, that’s a problem," said Renacci.
Sutton countered that no cars were being sold before the program was in effect, arguing that it saved a lot of jobs.
"Every study out there has shown that this program was a timely temporary targeted stimulus that worked," said Sutton, adding, "I did get the distinguished service Award from the Ohio Automobile Dealers Association, which I believe my opponent is a member of."
Both also discussed the newly redrawn district, the borders of which some believe were intentionally drawn to give an advantage to a republican candidate.
"The congressional districts, I'm not happy with the way they were drawn," said Renacci, "But do you know who we should turn around and chastise for it, those that did it, we have elected officials who did it, and if you are concerned about the way it was drawn you talk to the elected officials and if you don’t like their answers then you change elected officials," he continued.
Sutton was quick with her response.
"My opponent wasn’t chastising the folks who were drawing the districts in his favor, he was communicating with them finding out exactly how much of my district would be included in his district to make sure that that advantage was still there," she said, adding, "I didn't see the chastising when the speaker of the house in a matter of minutes turned around on behalf of my opponent to make sure that a big contributor was looped in, the only place in Canton, Ohio that was looped into the 16th district, a big contributor for my opponent."
Those in the room complemented the candidates on how civil the debate was carried out. There was no consensus, however, to who won.