Ohio's 16th congressional district was drawn to be safely red and it pretty much is. Obama took 45.2% against Romney, while Hillary, who wrote off Ohio, only took 39.5% and Biden took 42.2%. The R+10 district west and south of Cleveland, carefully avoids that city as well as Akron and Canton. The only actual city is western Cuyahoga County's Parma (pop- 78,103) and that's the only swingy part of the district. The rest of the district is carved out of red areas of Stark, Medina, Wayne Summit and Portage counties. In 2018, a Democratic wave year, Republican Anthony Gonzalez beat his Democratic opponent 170,029 (56.7%) to 129,681 (43.3%). Last year he was reelected 247,335 (63.2%) to 144,071 (36.8%). Trump's win wasn't nearly as good as Gonzalez's-- just 56.5%.
But since then, everything political has changed in OH-16. Gonzalez voted to impeach Trump and defeating him in the Republican primary is now a Trump priority. His candidate, a son of a very wealthy Shaker Heights family, Max Miller, was once a Trump roadie... and toady. Early polling shows Miller ousting Gonzalez, but about a third of the voters are unsure, primarily because they never heard of Miller, who has never had anything whatsoever to do with the district.
Washington Post reporter Marianna Sotomayor wrote yesterday that Gonzalez "has been trying to get his constituents to focus on everything about his record but that vote, while Trump is promising to make sure they never forget it. In the days following Trump’s recent rally, interviews with dozens of voters and local officials showed the event accomplished that mission, at least for the short-term. Several voters said they weren’t familiar with who was challenging Gonzalez in the primary before Trump’s arrival. The officials said it had unmistakably shifted the focus of the race back onto Gonzalez’s decision to join nine fellow Republicans and all House Democrats in voting to impeach Trump on charges that his false claims about the 2020 election incited the mob that attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6."
Voters in OH-16 aren't going to forget because Trump won't let them. Gonzalez would probably be fine in a general election, but a Republican primary? Not much of a chance. Gozalez's predecessor as congressman, Jim Renacci told Sotomayor that the impeachment vote will be in the minds of the pruners voters but that "doesn’t mean he still can’t win... he’s really got to tell people why he should still be there. As I’ve said to him, he needs to remind people of what he’s done other than that and Max Miller needs to remind people of what Gonzalez did and that will be the difference."
For the most part, Gonzalez has followed that advice. Unlike some impeachment Republicans who have made their vote a defining issue like Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) or Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Gonzalez has largely decided to keep his head down and focus on legislating and his conservative record.
He says he does not regret the vote and will occasionally defend himself against Trump’s attacks.
“He was doing the same thing that he does every time he’s mad at somebody,” he told Cleveland.com after the rally. “He makes up a bunch of stuff, calls them mean names. It’s the same tired routine that he always uses. I don’t, frankly, give it any thought.”
Aides familiar with the congressman’s approach, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe his views, said Gonzalez sees his role as being outspoken when it comes to the dangers Trump poses to the country while not allowing it to define or distract from his priorities on Capitol Hill. He declined to be interviewed for this story.
...House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) who has mostly been obsequious to Trump, is backing Gonzalez in the primary, which is scheduled for early May, even if he is not heavily promoting that position.
The leadership PAC controlled by McCarthy-- Majority Committee PAC-- donated $10,000 to Gonzalez in the first quarter. When asked this past week whether he supports the Ohio congressman as he walked to the House floor, McCarthy belted out a resounding “Yes!”
Other members of House GOP leadership have been more cautious.
“Anthony is working on reelection. He’s done a really good job as a member trying to get things done,” Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) said while ignoring questions about whether he endorses Gonzalez.
Gonzalez has kept close ties with the other nine Republicans who voted to impeach Trump. He defended Cheney when GOP leaders moved to strip the Wyoming Republican of her leadership post and replace her with Rep. Elise Stefanik (NY).
“If a prerequisite for leading our conference is continuing to lie to our voters, then Liz is not the best fit. Liz isn’t going to lie to people,” he told the Hill newspaper in May.
Gonzalez also recently formed a joint fundraising committee with Cheney in an effort to push back against the expected deluge of donations Miller will receive after getting Trump’s support.
Imagine if Ohio had a functioning Democratic Party instead of a corpse that was once a party! I suppose a Democratic challenger will emerge, but not one with any significant party backing-- and in exactly the kind situation where a district could be flipped... and where a strong presence could help turn out voters in the crucial Ohio Senate race as well. If Tim Ryan was smart, he'd be trying to recruit someone viable to run in the 16th.