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Former football player Anthony Gonzalez wins GOP primary to replace Rep. Jim Renacci;

By Sabrina Eaton • May 9, 2018 at 10:00 AM

CLEVELAND — Main Street Republicans prevailed in Ohio's rancorous GOP primary contests to replace departing U.S. House of Representatives members Jim Renacci of Wadsworth and Patrick Tiberi of the Columbus area.

Former Indianapolis Colt and Buckeyes football star Anthony Gonzalez — who benefited from a $300,000 ad buy from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — triumphed over Ohio Sen. Christina Hagan and physician Michael Grusenmeyer for the Republican slot in the November race for Renacci's seat. Hagan's backers included Champaign County GOP Rep. Jim Jordan and groups like the Susan B. Anthony List.

Their battle was a local manifestation of a nationwide schism between the Republican party's business-friendly conservatives and its ideologically driven Tea Party wing.

A statement from Gonzalez said his campaign was proud to earn endorsements from "local elected officials, grassroots leaders and everyday voters."

"Our goal has been to authentically represent our shared values while articulating our vision for the future of Northeast Ohio and our great country," Gonzalez' statement said. "As we look forward to the November election and a new challenge, we will continue to double down on this same strategy."

Gonzalez will face off against health care professional Susan Moran Palmer of Westlake, who won a six-way Democratic primary in the 16th district, which includes all of Wayne County, and parts of Cuyahoga, Summit, Portage, Medina, and Stark counties.

In an email to voters before the primary, Palmer said she's committed to "discussing the real issues Ohioans face every day."

"I understand that our healthcare system is broken, that working Americans don't have access to a living wage, and that our young people and educators should feel safe from gun violence," she said. "I also understand that Washington is broken. Legislators on both sides of the aisle are so concerned with re-election that they've lost touch with the voters who got them there. This has to stop."

In another closely watched Ohio race for an open congressional seat, Ohio Sen. Troy Balderson narrowly won a 10-way Republican primary for the post Tiberi, a Columbus-area Republican, vacated to head the Ohio Business Roundtable. Tiberi endorsed Balderson and ran ads to support him.

The runner-up in that race — Liberty Township trustee Melanie Leneghan — was backed by Jordan and the House Freedom Caucus he co-founded. Some in the GOP establishment feared Leneghan was too conservative for district and could lose the general election.

Franklin County Recorder Danny O'Connor emerged victorious among the seven Democrats who want to replace Tiberi in the 12th congressional district, which includes all of Morrow, Licking and Delaware counties, and parts of Franklin, Richland, Marion and Muskingum counties.

The pair will also represent their parties in an Aug. 7 special election for the remainder of the term Tiberi vacated when he left office in January, as well as the November general election for a two year term that begins next year.

Entrenched incumbents running for re-election deterred that level of political primary competition elsewhere in the state. Here's how other congressional primaries in Northeast Ohio turned out:

4th Congressional District

Incumbent GOP Rep. Jim Jordan of Champaign County easily defeated Joseph Miller of Marion, who filed to run for the position but did not campaign. In November, he will face retired Oberlin teacher Janet Garrett, who defeated Cody Rose of New Albany to win the Democratic primary. She is making her third attempt to unseat the House Freedom Caucus cofounder.

The district they want to represent includes all of Allen, Auglaize, Shelby, Logan, Champaign, Union, Crawford, Seneca and Sandusky counties, and parts of Huron, Erie, Lorain, Mercer and Marion counties.

7th Congressional District

Republican Rep. Bob Gibbs of Holmes County fended off challenges from Terry Robertson of Medina and Patrick Quinn of Mount Vernon to win the GOP primary by a large merggin. Ken Harbaugh of Avon, a former Navy pilot who ran a nonprofit that deploys military veterans as emergency first responders around the world, defeated Canton's Patrick Pikus to win the Democratic primary.

Harbaugh raised more than $1 million for his primary campaign and is expected to give Gibbs the toughest general election contest he's faced in years. Gibbs' campaign attempted to intervene in the Democratic primary by placing ads to boost Pikus.

The 7th congressional district includes parts of Lorain, Medina, Huron, Richland, Stark and Tuscarawas counties and all of Ashland, Coshocton, Knox and Holmes counties.

9th Congressional District

Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Toledo handily defeated newcomer Joshua M. Garcia of Lorain in the Democratic primary. Steve Kraus of Sandusky — who is making his third bid for Congress as he tries to overturn a felony conviction - won the Republican primary by defeating Sheffield Lake builder Keith Colton and W. Benjamin Franklin of Fairview Park. The congressional district stretches along Lake Erie between Cleveland and Toledo.

11th Congressional District

In the Democratic primary, incumbent Rep. Marcia Fudge of Warrensville Heights beat write-in candidate Felicia Washington Ross of Bedford. In the Republican primary, audiologist Beverly Goldstein of Beachwood defeated retired Akron accountant Gregory P. Dunham. The district they'll contest in November stretches between Cleveland and Akron.

13th Congressional District

Democratic incumbent Rep. Tim Ryan of the Niles area defeated perennial candidate John Stephen Luchansky of Boardman and Robert Crow of Youngstown in the district that includes all of Mahoning County and chunks of Portage, Summit, Stark and Trumbull counties. Republican Chris DePizzo of Youngstown did not face opposition in the district's Republican primary.

14th Congressional District

GOP incumbent Rep. Dave Joyce of Bainbridge Township and Democratic attorney Betsy Rader of Russell Township did not face opposition in their party primaries. The district includes Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula counties and parts of Cuyahoga, Summit, Portage and Trumbull counties.

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