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Emilia Sykes, Madison Gesiotto Gilbert to square off in battleground 13th Congressional District

State Rep. Emilia Sykes (left) of Akron, a Democrat, will take attorney Madison Gesiotto Gilbert, a Republican from Canton.
State Rep. Emilia Sykes (left) of Akron, a Democrat, will take on attorney Madison Gesiotto Gilbert, a Republican from Canton, this fall in general election.

In the race for the 13th congressional district, Tuesday’s primary sets up a challenge between the scion of an Akron political dynasty and an ally of former President Donald Trump.

Emilia Sykes has represented Akron since 2015, and her parents have represented the area at various times in the Statehouse since 1982.

Sykes was unopposed in the May 3 primary and will face the winner from a crowded field of seven Republicans: Madison Gesiotto Gilbert, a Trump surrogate endorsed by the former president.

But Sykes said it will not be difficult to make her case to Republican voters based on her track record.

“I know them, they know me," she said. "These are the folks who I go to church with, who I grocery shop with, [and] I walk on the trails with.”

Sykes adds that voters in Akron have a lot in common with voters in Canton, which is also now part of the 13th District.

“People are still struggling with how much things are costing, whether or not there's healthcare that they can access; public safety continues to be a problem and education issues are very significant.”

Sykes’ challenger is from Canton and did not return calls for comment. But the second place finisher in Summit County, attorney Greg Wheeler of Copley, said he’s also concerned with inflation and how much things are costing. But he does not think Akron is better off since the Sykes family has been in office.

Wheeler said all of the GOP candidates should now work together to support Gilbert.

“Of the seven candidates, none of us has served in public office," Wheeler said. "So, it’s representative of a party that really does allow for people to run for a position without a significant amount of experience because their ideas are good, and they’re hard-working, and they’re solid patriots who are really trying to do their best.”

Businessman Dante Sabatucci of Cuyahoga Falls and engineer Ryan Saylor of Stow were also on the GOP ballot. And three candidates were in the running from outside of the district: anti-abortion activist Janet Folger Porter of Hinckley, attorney Shay Hawkins of Broadview Heights and 24-year-old government defense consultant Santana King of North Royalton.

The 13th district also includes a sliver of southwest Portage County to cover Mogadore, which lies partly in Summit County.

And for the first time since the 1990s, Akron will be entirely inside one Congressional district — something that’s been lamented by Tim Ryan, who currently represents the 13th. His home turf of the Mahoning Valley will no longer be in the district, however, so this year he’s running for U.S. Senate.

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.