Midterm elections may mean change to Congress makeup

by Sammy Bonasso, ’20

Although the turnout of teen voters typically is low, particularly in Congressional elections, they have possessed electoral influence since 1972 saw the passage of the 26th Amendment. Furthermore, with gun control becoming even more relevant to students with the Parkland shooting, the current preferences of young voters could, and eventually will, provide great sway on the legislative process.


Incumbent Republican Steve Stivers has represented Ohio congressional district 15 since 2011. He received no Republican challengers during the primary elections, which held voting May 8, and he will run in November. His predominant committee assignment is the Financial Services Committee, which “oversees banking, insurance, real estate, public and assisted housing and securities industries,” according to his website.

Stivers graduated from OSU and served in the military as part of the Ohio Army National Guard for over 30 years and overseas during Operation Iraqi Freedom in Kuwait, Iraq, Qatar and Djibouti. He led 400 soldiers and contractors who all remained unharmed during his deployment, and he received the Bronze Star for leadership and holds the rank of Brigadier General.

Additionally, Stivers participated in the Ohio Senate before becoming a congressperson. He joined upon recommendation by a Senate screening committee and stayed for nearly nine years, sponsoring bills that, for example, allowed disabled citizens without healthcare to utilize Ohio’s Medicaid system and reinforced Ohio sex offender laws, according to Wikipedia.

Democratic challengers included Rob Jarvis and Rick Neal, but Neal won the Democratic primary with 64 percent of the vote. Neal has not held political office, but, similar to many Congressional challengers of the current minority party, disapproves of the country’s direction.

Neal has engaged in much international aid, joining the Peace Corps after college and working in Morocco as a “teacher and health educator.” He also has worked in Cambodia, Congo and Afghanistan, managed local non-profit organizations, helped begin reconstruction on a hospital, and established refugee camps. In 2014, Neal visited Liberia  to fight the ebola epidemic, joining a team that started a 100-bed field hospital to treat patients.

According to Neal’s website, his humanitarian experiences taught him “to not be afraid to stand up and take action when called, no matter the obstacles.” He elaborates on this statement by describing how he pushed for civil rights and marriage equality after marrying his husband in 2007 and adopting two girls. Additionally, he writes of his gratification when the law began accepting his family in 2015 when homosexual marriage was legalized.

In a Schoology survey completed by around 150 students, 96% were familiar with Stivers and 14% with Neal, a margin likely resulting from Stivers’ name recognition as an incumbent versus Neal’s as a challenger. Furthermore, students likely know Stivers from his visit to UAHS with representative Joyce Beatty to discuss civility with A.P. U.S. Government and Politics students.


Sherrod Brown, another incumbent, will run for the Senate in November. Brown has been a senator for Ohio since 2006 and is considered a “safe vote for the Democratic party” by many independent rankings, according to Ballotpedia.

Brown supports fair trade, American manufacturing, social justice and honoring veterans, as highlighted by his website’s biography. His uses of legislative and political power to oppose unfavorable trade agreements, communicate with Ohio entrepreneurs, increase health insurance affordability, expand opportunities for young men of color and secure millions of dollars for an Ohio veteran cemetery support his claims.

Republican Jim Renacci has represented Ohio’s 16th congressional district in the House since 2010 but won the Republican primary for the Senate with nearly half the vote. In the House, he notably serves on the powerful Ways and Means Committee, which determines the country’s taxes.

Renacci achieved extensive business experience after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, as he owned and managed over 60 “entities” and employed around 3,000 people. He also served as a volunteer firefighter, the City Council President and eventually the mayor in Wadsworth, Ohio. In the latter position, he “successfully balanced the city’s $80 million dollar budget and converted a multi-million dollar deficit into a surplus, without raising taxes,” according to his website.

Issues and stances Renacci emphasizes include adequate military spending, decreasing healthcare costs, reforming the education system and simplifying the tax code to help small businesses.

Fewer students who took the survey were familiar with Brown than Stivers, two incumbents. As well, the recognition gap between the Brown and Renacci was not as severe for the Senate race as it was for the House’s: 22 percent of students knew Renacci as opposed to Neal’s 14.

President Trump addresses both houses of Congress in a joint session. Image Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.


Although the survey specifically asked seniors about their planned votes, the sample size collected was too small to be relevant. However, students of all grade levels, some of which can come November, gave their preferences.

Each student noted his or her top three qualities they seek in representatives. The most desirable were for congresspeople to be “Anti-Gun,” “Pro-Choice,” and “[in favor of] more environmental spending,” with around half of students selecting the first two.

The most popular conservative qualities students chose were for legislators to oppose the Affordable Care Act and abortion, both hovering at around 15%. The discrepancy between liberal and conservative traits desired by students may arise from nearly 30% of students favoring Democratic congresspeople and nearly 20% favoring Republicans.