When the subject of career politicians came up at Sunday night’s senatorial debate in Cleveland, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) sidestepped the issue.
His opponent, Congressman Jim Renacci (R-OH-16), repeatedly pummeled the senior senator from Ohio on that one issue. On gun rights, immigration, healthcare, the environment, or Ohio’s economic progress, Renacci reminded the viewer career politicians were responsible for problems voters face.
“The biggest problem with career politicians like Senator Sherrod Brown is he loves Washington too much,” Renacci said. “I’ve been all over this state and I don’t see him talking with the elderly, the children. The senators in Washington, they just like to spend money but we need to do a better job of making sure we are spending it wisely.”
Notably, has been in elected office since the mid-1970’s.
Voters first elected the 23-year-old Sherrod Brown to the Ohio State House in 1974, where he served until his successful bid in 1982 to become Ohio’s 47th Secretary of State. In 1992, he ran for and won election to the 13th congressional district on the U.S. House of Representatives.
In 2006, Brown challeged then-two-term-incumbent Senator Mike DeWine (R-OH) and won. Lead by majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Brown worked to set the stage for the historic 2008 election of President Barack Obama and then the passage of Democrats’ signature pieces of legislation of that era: The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank).
On the issue of student loan debt, Renacci again differentiated himself from Brown. “I know about student debt. I was a son of a railway worker and a nurse, he was the son of a doctor,” Renacci said.
“In Ohio we are tops in student debt because, for one reason, we are pushing all of our students into attending colleges with four-year degrees,” Renacci said, adding that many students may be happier and better suited to a two-year program that prepares them directly for a good-paying job in the trades or, for instance, as a welder or diesel mechanic.
“I do think we need to look at the entire system. This is a system that has been built over the years by career politicians like Sherrod Brown,” he said. “We have allowed the federal government to say ‘use these loans for everything.’ When I went to college it was for books and tuition. That’s it.”
After the debate, Renacci spokeswoman Leslie Shedd said Renacci’s entire life has been intertwined with the lives of other Ohioans.
Unlike Sherrod Brown, Jim Renacci is a small business owner who never had any intention of getting involved in politics. While Sherrod Brown spent the last 44 years collecting more than $4.5 million in taxpayer funded salaries, Jim Renacci built more than 60 small businesses in Ohio, creating 1,500 jobs and employing more than 3,000 Ohioans.
Renacci came to the debate armed with facts that back up his claim that his opponent is too entrenched in the special-interest environment of Washington and too out of touch with regular Ohioans.
He tallied up Brown’s haul as a professional politician over 44 years – collecting some $4.5 million in taxpayer funded salaries.
That amount excludes the millions of dollars that have poured into his re-election campaigns from donors small and large – including lobbyists. Brown is a top target for lobbyist cash and holds to number-one spot for accepting the most donations of any senator in the 2018 election cycle.
Early in his third term in the House, Representative Brown pushed term limits, stating: “Voters support term limits because they want to get rid of the people who have been here for 20 or 30 years.”
See sources below for verification of Brown’s morphing from a lawmaker to supported term limits into a career politician:
- McLaughlin Poll from February 2018 Shows “Overwhelming” Support for Term Limits. An overwhelming 82 percent of voters approve of a constitutional amendment that will place term limits on members of Congress. Four-in-five voters believe that it is important for President Trump to keep his promise to support term limits for members of Congress by calling on Congress to vote for term limits.” (“M&A Poll: Voters Overwhelmingly Support Term Limits for Congress,” McLaughlin & Associates Website, 2/8/18)
- In February 1997, Brown Voted for Constitutional Amendment to Create Congressional Term-Limits – Two Terms For Senators, Six Terms For House Members. “Passage of the joint resolution to propose a constitutional amendment to impose a 12-year lifetime limit on congressional service in each chamber.” (H.J. Res. 2, Roll Call Vote #21: Failed 217-211, 2/12/97, Brown Voted Yea; CQ Summary Accessed 4/26/17)
- Brown said 12-Year Term Limit Should be Retroactive: “Voters support term limits because they want to get rid of the people who have been here for 20-30 years.” Brown said the 12-year term limit should be retroactive, and that it is hypocritical for ‘old-timers’ who praise term limits to support anything else. (“Term Limits Bill Falls Far Short In House,” The Plain Dealer, 2/13/97)
- In December 1997, Brown Said Term-Limits Would “Cleanse the System” of arrogant lawmakers who overstay their time in the Capitol. “Brown, who voted for the defeated term-limits amendment last February, says the idea has appeal in that it would ‘cleanse the system’ of arrogant lawmakers who overstay their time in the Capitol. (Tom Diemer, “Group Urges U.S. Legislators To Sign Term-Limit Pledges,” The Plain Dealer, 12/5/97)
- In 2004, Brown Broke His Term-Limit Pledge and Ran For Seventh Term. “‘Frankly, I’ve watched the state Legislature and … I’ve changed my mind,’ said Democratic Rep. Sherrod Brown, who argues term limits have kept local lawmakers more focused on learning the ropes and being re-elected than dealing with problems such as school funding, health care and the budget.” (Malia Rulon, “Three Ohioans Running Again Despite Term Limit Pledges,” Associated Press, 4/8/04).
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Anthony Accardi is a writer and reporter for The Ohio Star.