US House incumbents in Ohio await results

ANN SANNER JOHN SEEWER Associated Press Published:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- The fates of three Ohio congressional incumbents were up in the air early Wednesday, as winners in the state's two hotly contested U.S. House races remained unknown.

U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, a three-term Democrat whose district was eliminated by redistricting, was locked in a tight race with first-term U.S. Rep. James Renacci in one of the most closely watched and costliest races in the country. It was one of only two matchups of House incumbents in the nation.

With 77 percent of precincts reporting, Renacci had more than 52 percent of the vote.

Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson was fending off a challenge from former congressman Charlie Wilson in eastern Ohio. Johnson has almost 54 percent of the vote with nearly 90 percent of precincts tallied.

Outside groups had poured millions of dollars into television advertising in the two contests. Republicans counted on dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama and the economy to help them keep both seats.

Only a handful of Ohio's 16 congressional districts were competitive this year after Republicans redrew the state's political map to reflect population shifts and came up with districts that tilted heavily toward one party or the other. Because of slow population growth, Ohio lost two of its 18 congressional districts.

Republicans outnumber Democrats in Ohio's delegation 13-5. The GOP was all but assured of keeping a majority of the state's seats. Democrats were heavily favored in just four contests.

At least nine Republicans and three Democrats won Ohio congressional seats Tuesday. That includes two first-term congressional Republicans -- Reps. Bob Gibbs and Steve Stivers.

Meanwhile, a heavily favored Democratic candidate also captured a new U.S. House seat. Former Democratic state Rep. Joyce Beatty took the new district in central Ohio, which was added after Democrats sought more representation for African-Americans.

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner won a 12th term, as he ran unopposed in his southwest Ohio district.

Samuel "Joe" Wurzelbacher, who was thrust into the political spotlight four years ago as Joe the Plumber, was beaten by congressional veteran Marcy Kaptur, the longest-serving Democratic woman in the House.

Wurzelbacher ran as a Republican in Ohio's 9th U.S. House district in his first shot at public office.

In Ohio's two most hotly contested congressional races,

There will be at least two other new faces in Ohio's congressional delegation.

Iraq war veteran Brad Wenstrup, a Republican, was victorious in a southern Ohio district that stretches east from Cincinnati into Appalachia. He surprised U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt in the GOP primary.

In a GOP-leaning district in the state's northeast corner, Geauga County Prosecutor David Joyce beat Democrat Dale Virgil Blanchard.

Republicans chose Joyce to run after nine-term U.S. Rep. Steven LaTourette, a Republican, announced in July that he wouldn't seek re-election because of his frustration over political gridlock in Washington.