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Meet Jim Renacci, Former Businessman Making Republican Play For Governor

Renacci first took office in 2011 after beating then-Congresswoman Betty Sutton. They're both candaites to become the next governor of Ohio.

The race to become Ohio’s next governor continues to grow. Like the three Democrats who jumped into the 2018 race in recent weeks, Northeast Ohio Congressman Jim Renacci says he’s best-served to represent working-class Ohioans.

Renacci was a career entrepreneur who, after first winning a seat in 2010, beat then-Congresswoman Betty Sutton in 2012 after the district was redrawn to favor Republicans. The Tea Party favorite was also one of the first prominent supporters of Donald Trump’s run for President.

Now, Renacci appears to be piggy-backing on Trump’s “America First” rallying cry: Renacci’s campaign website and slogan is Ohio First.

“Donald Trump ran on a number of things he said he was going to do, he was elected, and now he’s doing what he said," Renacci says. "That’s a businessman’s mentality."

Renacci does say he’s not on board with Trump’s plan to cut federal funding for Great Lakes cleanup.

“But I will also tell you, being on the Budget Committee in Washington, if we do nothing (about spending), we’re going to add about $10 trillion to our debt," he says.

Renacci spoke with WOSU's Debbie Holmes about his business resume and why he wants the race to be less about "name ID" and more about "accomplishment ID."

Jim Renacci: I said all along, I came to Ohio 34 years ago as just an individual who was looking for opportunity. When I came here, I saw the opportunity, I saw Ohio is a great place to raise a family, to start a business. I started a business, grew that business to where I created 1,500 jobs, employed 3,000 people, had the opportunity just to live the American dream. And Ohio was very good to me.

Credit Jim Renaccci / Facebook
Jim Renacci, center, joined President Trump in the White House for the administration's rollback of federal environmental regulations.

Debbie Holmes: So what do you think your skills are, that that you will bring to be governor that will be effective for the state?

Jim Renacci: Well, operational skills, businessman skills, having to live within the rules that politicians make. I've had to live within those for 30 years so I'll be able to take my skill set, real world skill set, and use that real world skill set to change things. 

I realize we have three big issues here in Ohio. We know the regulatory burden on families and businesses is an issue. We also have a tax burden, which is an issue, where we need to simplify our tax code. We need to simplify it for families and business owners. And then my third big issue was, I'm going to stop the pay-for-play politics that occur where individuals take donations from people and then they turn around and give them state contracts. That's going to end also under my watch.

Debbie Holmes: Now you were an early supporter of Donald Trump. Do you support what he's done so far—the executive orders that have come out, such as the travel ban on six Muslim majority nations, also the wall proposal on the Mexican border?

Jim Renacci: Well look, Donald Trump ran on a number of things he said he was going to do. He was elected and now he's doing what he said. That's a businessman's mentality. They take politics out of the way and they do what's right or what they believe is right. And the people elected him.

Debbie Holmes: Now President Trump's budget proposal calls for slashes in funding for the Great Lakes cleanup, as well as cuts in the Appalachian Regional Development efforts. Do you support those cuts?

Jim Renacci: Well here's what I know. President Trump's budget is his budget. There will be a House budget, there will be a Senate budget, we'll have to look and see where we can compromise. I've already signed off on a letter asking for President Trump to look at those dollars on the Great Lakes. But I will also tell you, being on the Budget Committee in Washington, you know if we do nothing we're going to add about $10 trillion to our debt.

Debbie Holmes: Do you think you have enough name recognition throughout the state?

Jim Renacci: Well, look, everybody always talks about name recognition. Name recognition is really, comes from being a career politician. I'm a big believer that what I do have is an accomplishment ID. At the end of this race, everybody will have name ID. But what's going to set me apart is my accomplishment ID, not my name.

Credit Jim Renacci/Facebook
Jim Renacci is sworn in again as the representative of Ohio's 16th district on January 3, 2017.

Debbie Holmes: What's your greatest accomplishment in Congress?

Jim Renacci: I've actually been able to get five or six bills passed out of Congress. I think that's important. The big issue in Washington is, though, you work your bills and then leadership take them and passes them through—

Debbie Holmes: What bills are you talking about specifically?

Jim Renacci: Well I've had a number of bills. The one bill was where, the one bill basically is any IRS individual who goes after political targeting can be fired. That bill passed the House, the Senate, then it was signed by the president. I've had another bill on identity theft, which passed the House, the Senate, and was signed by President Obama.

Debbie Holmes: Do you think you can raise as much money as the better-known Republicans who are suspected to be in this race: Jon Husted, Mike DeWine and Mary Taylor?

Jim Renacci: Well look, in the end the the people of Ohio would get to know me and my accomplishments. It's not all about money. I think there'll be enough resources behind me that will show that I'm going to be, you know, that people will realize that I'll be competitive in this race, which is important.

But in the end we're got to get past this name ID and money ID, we've got to look at accomplishment ID, and I think that's the key.