It's here where auto dealer Tom Ganley, a Republican of great wealth but as yet a rookie with political zeal that remains to be spent, has decided to plant the ultra-conservative flag on the district's soul. He is challenging two-term Democratic Congresswoman Betty Sutton - a decision that he apparently made less than a day before he opted out of the Republican senatorial primary against Rob Portman. There will be no surprises in his platform. Cut taxes and create jobs. (His prepared text for his Akron Press Club speech in October mentioned nary a word about health care reform. In Ganley's stance, he wants to add a businessman's moment to the U.S. House. As he will tell you, he sells more cars with his 32 dealerships than any other dealer in Ohio, and that much I believe.
The subtext is a recent internal poll that shows him leading Sutton 10 months before the mast.
With Tea Party frustration on his side (he has addressed these angry placard-wavers) it appears to be an opportune moment to dive in - along with six others in the GOP primary. But the 13th is also a Democratic district that Sutton carried with two-thirds of the vote the last time. In a prepared statement, Sutton's forces brushed off the competition, saying: "Since her first day in office, she has been effectively fighting to foster jobs and economic opportunity" for her district. Among other things, she's been in the thick of promoting the Cash for Clunkers program.
Still, give the Republicans their moment. Summit County Republican Alex Arshinkoff could not contain his glee after the weak showing by his opponents in yesterday's filings for the party's central committee. Nor could he disguise his joy that so many Republicans have decided to run for office this year.
"I've never seen anything like it" he told me this morning. "These people are upset and want change. It's a legitimate concern."
Although Arshinkoff has been targeted by some Tea Partiers and garden variety Republicans who sought change in the chairmanship, he'll be active in this year's proceedings. He may now find himself on stage with Ganley, who is pressing all of the right buttons to attract the right-wingers. The chairman stops short of casting his support for Ganley, noting that the party will have to decide on whether to endorse. But there should be no doubt about his commitment to Ganley if the latter wins the primary against a lot of political unknowns whose names don't appear on the frames of license plates. Ganley would not only give the chairman hope of capturing western Summit County, but he would be counting on some fresh financial support from a multimillionaire car dealer for a local party that is in weak financial shape these days.
It promises to be a hellish political year, but one that won't be particularly bursting with fresh ideas on how to get us out of the lingering mess that Republicans helped create for eight years.
It would also give Ganley a second chance to prove that he is a better candidate than a prognosticator. It was last July, after all, that he announced his candidacy for the Senate and thrilled his hometown Brecksville audience by predicting that he would win the Senate primary and "be the surprise of the nation." It remained that way, of course, until a relatively few hours before he decided to surprise everybody by winning the House seat.