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3 compete for the Republican nomination in Ohio’s 13th district. Who will face Rep. Emilia Sykes?

Stylized illustration of map of Ohio 13th Congressional District
Lauren Green
Ideastream Public Media
Three Republicans are competing in the 2024 Ohio primary to challenge first-term incumbent Democrat Emilia Strong Sykes in the 13th Congressional District

There are three Republican candidates competing for their party’s nomination in the 13th Congressional District. Whoever wins the primary election March 19 will face incumbent Democrat Emilia Sykes, who is not facing a primary challenge, come the November election.

The potential challengers

Chris Banweg

Chris Banweg
Courtesy of Chris Banweg

Chris Banweg is a businessman and a 24-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, currently serving as a colonel in the Marine Corps Reserves.

“Most of my time has been spent in government stabilization and counterinsurgency work,” he said. “Very similar topics, similar challenges, to what we're up against here in our political environment.”

Born in Akron and now a resident of Hudson, Banweg has spent much of his life in Summit County.

If elected, Banweg said securing the border is his primary concern.

“It's a national security threat,” he said. “We're not managing the safety and security of our environment by leaving the border open.”

Cutting government spending to help lower inflation is important to him as well, Banweg said. He would like to see money invested in programs that will help Americans financially, he added.

“Rather than spending money on frivolous programs, start to reinvest it in the Northeast Ohio economy, in jobs here in America, in skill building and education,” he said.

The third item on his to-do list is cracking down on crime. Violent criminals must be prosecuted, Banweg said.

“We need to do it the same for everyone, regardless of their political party, the color of their skin or their perspective on an issue,” he added. “We need to have to get back to a single-tiered justice system.”

Banweg said he is the best candidate for the 13th district because he has experience in leadership, not politics.

“What sets me apart is I believe people are looking for leaders, not just another bureaucrat or career politician,” he said. “I think I bring a different perspective that is going to deliver solutions that maybe haven't been in traditional career politicians’ playbook.”

Kevin Coughlin

Kevin Coughlin is a fifth-generation Summit County resident. Now the owner of a consulting company, Coughlin previously represented the 46th district in the Ohio House of Representatives from 1997 to 2001 until he was appointed to the Ohio Senate for the 27th district, where he was subsequently elected to two full terms.

Kevin Coughlin
Courtesy of Kevin Coughlin

“I have a record as a dependable conservative who gets things done and who gets results,” Coughlin said. “I had a very good record of achievement in the legislature and standing up to even my own party, to special interests and my own party, when it was wrong.”

Coughlin named three issues as top priorities if elected: the increased price of living, an insecure border and an “out of control” federal government.

“It doesn't really matter if it's a Republican or a Democrat or an independent,” he said. “Everybody I talked to unanimously says they do not believe Congress is working for them. Where I see the heart of the problem is that Congress has given away most of its power to the federal agencies.”

These agencies go unchecked due to a lack of spending bills or approval oversight, Coughlin said.

“We have to have adult conversations about the long-term impact of the fact that over half of our federal budget right now is on autopilot through entitlements,” he said. “We have to figure out how to get control of that so that those programs are sustainable.”

Coughlin said he identifies as a Reagan Republican.

“I believe in the market economy. I believe in less government regulation. I believe in lower taxes. I believe in accountable government,” he said. “I believe not in decriminalizing things, but recriminalizing things because I think we've gotten way too soft on crime.”

Richard Morckel

Richard Morckel
Courtesy of Richard Morckel

Richard Morckel has lived in the Akron area for about three decades. He says he previously worked as an airship technician on the Goodyear Blimp and as a test technician for Phillips Medical Imaging.

“I've been all over the country. You engage with a lot of different types of people and learn their needs and know what the pressures are on them,” Morckel said. “You become both hardened and sensitive at the same time.”

While he is not a politician, Morckel is also not new to Northeast Ohio's political scene. In 2016, Morckel ran against former Congressman Tim Ryan for representative of what was then Ohio’s 13th District. He lost, earning a little more than 30% of the vote, according to Ohio Secretary of State records.

If elected, Morckel said his main goal is to decrease federal spending. One way he would like to see this done is through the dismantling of monopolies, he said. Morckel points to insulin as an example.

“Now whenever you do that, you help secure, you help strengthen the nation overall and reduce federal spending, which we desperately need,” he said.

Morckel also said advocating to secure the border is important to him.

“The other thing is closing the border. Everybody says that, but nonetheless, it has to be done,” Morckel said. “We have to finish that wall, and we need to staff that wall.”

About the 13th

The 13th Congressional District stretches from Cleveland’s Southeast suburbs to Canton and Massillon. It covers all of Summit County as well as parts of Stark and Portage. Due to redistricting in 2022, Akron is now solidly in the 13th district. Previously, the city had been divided into four districts with none of its representatives living in Summit County.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2022 American Community Survey, the population of the district is more than 700,000. Nearly 76% are white.

The median household income for the district is $65,000, although 5% of households make less than $10,000. The unemployment rate is about 3%, and about 13% of households receive food stamps or SNAP benefits.

About 35% of individuals 25 and older in the district have a bachelor’s degree or higher while 5% never graduated high school.

The district's politics

“Ohio 13 is one of the most competitively drawn districts in the whole country. It's one of a relative handful of true swing seats across the country,” said Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.

According to an Ideastream Public Media analysis of Ohio Secretary of State records, of the more than 500,000 registered voters in the district, 14% are registered as Republicans and 16.5% are registered as Democrats.

“You’ve got a mix of city areas that are Democratic-leaning and then also suburban slash exurban slash rural areas that are more Republican-leaning,” Kondik said.

Sabato’s Crystal Ball gives the 13th District a toss-up rating, meaning the Republicans and Democrats have an equal chance of winning the general election in November.

Jenna Bal was a news intern at Ideastream Public Media from January 2023 to May 2024.