Betty Sutton

Served 3 terms, 2007-2013
Youngest woman ever elected to Ohio House
Photo: Clerk of the U.S. House

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Betty Sutton

Representative Betty Sutton

Served in the U.S. House of Representatives, 2007-2013

Born: 1963 in Barberton, Ohio

Education: B.A., Kent State University, 1985; J.D., The University of Akron, 1990

Prior Experience: Barberton City Council Member from 1991-1992; Member of the Ohio State House of Representatives from 1993-2000

Age When First Elected to the US House: 43

Length of Service: 3 terms

How She Entered the U.S. House: Ran in 2006 for an open seat created when Representative Sherrod Brown ran for U.S. Senate

How She Exited the U.S. House: Defeated in 2012 general election after redistricting substantially changed her district

Party: Democrat

  • Representative Betty Sutton

    Photo: Cleveland Plain Dealer

  • Representative Betty Sutton

    Photo: Cleveland Plain Dealer

  • Representative Betty Sutton

    During the 2012 campaign, Sutton debated Republican incumbent Jim Renacci at the City Club of Cleveland. Photo: Cleveland Plain Dealer.

  • Representative Betty Sutton

    After serving in Congress, Sutton became the head of the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation. Photo: Cleveland Plain Dealer.

  • Representative Betty Sutton

    Photo: Cleveland Plain Dealer

  • Representative Betty Sutton chats with a group of BW students

    Students in Professor Barbara Palmer's Women, Politics & the Media class took a field trip to Washington, D.C. and met with Betty Sutton, October 2014. Photo: Barbara Palmer

  • Representative Betty Sutton

    Sutton talked to Baldwin Wallace University students about why she was inspired to run for office and engage in public service, October 2014. Photo: Barbara Palmer

  • Representative Betty Sutton

    Students asked Sutton about her work with the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, October 2014. Photo: Barbara Palmer

  • Representative Betty Sutton

    Baldwin Wallace University students met with Sutton at the home of Susannah Wellford, the President of Running Start, October 2014. Photo: Barbara Palmer

  • Representative Betty Sutton

    Professor Barbara Palmer's Women, Politics, & the Media class with Betty Sutton, Washington, D.C., October 2014. Photo: Barbara Palmer

Background

Betty Sutton decided in high school that she wanted a career in public service.  At the age of 27, she ran for her first political office, the Barberton City Council, while she was still attending law school.  In 1992, at the age of 29, she became the youngest woman ever elected to the Ohio House of Representatives. 

In 2006, when Representative Sherrod Brown left the US House to run for the US Senate, Sutton ran for the open seat.  She won the crowded and highly competitive Democratic primary with 31% of the vote, defeating 7 other candidates.  In the general election, which turned quite negative, she ran against Republican Craig Foltin, the popular mayor of Lorain.  During their first debate, they were asked to name one thing they admired about the other.  Sutton said the way Foltin supported his city.  He said he could not think of anything (Seper).  Sutton won with 61% of the vote.

In the House, Sutton joined the all-female congressional soft-ball team.  She also was the sponsor of the Josh Miller HEARTS Act, which provided money to schools to install defibrillators, after a high-school football player died suddenly of cardiac arrest in her district.  Sutton gained national attention for creating the "Cash for Clunkers" program in 2009, a program that encouraged people to trade in their old cars for more fuel-efficient models as part of the economic stimulus package. 

In 2010, she was challenged by Republican Jim Ganley, a well-known car dealership owner, who had actually sold over 900 cars under the “Cash for Clunkers” program (Eaton, Sept 25).  Early in the campaign, a local Republican Party newsletter urged its members to “turn Betty Sutton into Betty Crocker,” and get Sutton “out of the House and put her back in the kitchen” (Eaton, April 24).  In October, 2 women accused Ganley of sexual harassment (McCarty & Naymik).  While Ganley spent nearly $3 million of his own money, Sutton won with 56% of the vote. 

After Ohio lost 2 US House seats and with her district substantially redrawn in 2012, Sutton had to run against fellow incumbent Republican Jim Renacci. With more than $10 million in outside campaign spending poured into the district, Sutton lost 48 to 52%. 

Written with the assistance of Jenna Burnett, Nicole Pishnery, & Kyle Tyson, BW students in POL 305D Women, Politics and Media, Fall 2014

Ohio's 13th and 16th Districts

Betty Sutton represented Ohio’s 13th district, which sprawled from the western suburbs of Cleveland to the southeast past Akron.  When she was first elected in 2006, because of its bizarre shape, the district was nicknamed “Tyrannosaurus Rex” (shown here), but it was safely Democratic. In 2012, the district was almost completely redrawn and renumbered as the 16th, including only a small proportion of its prior residents, removing most of Lorain County and anchoring the district in agricultural Wayne County to the South, home to a large Amish community (shown here).  Because Ohio lost 2 seats in this round of redistricting, Sutton was paired against incumbent Republican Jim Renacci, who defeated her in the now much more rural and Republican district.

Election History

YearRepublican OpponentSutton's % of 2-Party Vote
2006Craig Foltin61.2%
2008David Potter64.7%
2010Tom Ganley55.7%
2012Jim Renacci48.0%

District Maps

Ohio's 13th District Map

Ohio's 13th District in 2006

Ohio's 16th District in 2012

Ohio's 16th District in 2012

Sources and Resources:

“Betty Sutton.” The Ohio State House Ladies Gallery,
http://www.ohiostatehouse.org/museum/ladies-gallery/female-legislators/betty-s-sutton

Eaton, Sabrina. 2010. “Remark on Rep. Sutton Was Sexist, Critics Say; Medina County GOP Draws Outrage for 'Kitchen' Comment,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 24th.

Eaton, Sabrina. 2010. “Ganley Praised, Then Blasted ‘Clunkers,’” Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 25th.

McCarty, James & Mark Naymik. 2010. “2nd Woman Says Ganley Made Sexual Advance; GOP Candidate Denies Both Claims, Blames Sutton,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 30th.

“Representative Betty Sutton,” Congress.gov,
https://www.congress.gov/member/betty-sutton/S001174?q={%22search%22:[%22sutton%22]}&r=1

Seper, Chris. 2006. “Foltin Calls Sutton Opportunist; She Says he Indulges Corruption,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 25th.

“Sutton, Betty.” Women in Congress, U. S. House of Representatives Office of the Clerk,
http://history.house.gov/People/Detail/22604