Meet Betty Sutton, Looking To Become Ohio's First Elected Woman Governor

Mar 9, 2017

Betty Sutton says it’s not about her or any potential opponents. Her decision to run to become Ohio’s first elected woman governor is about the people of Ohio.

Sutton officially entered the race this week, joining fellow Democrat Joe Schiavoni as the only declared candidates.

“My whole life has been about standing up for working families,” Sutton says. “We’ll make our case to voters.”

The former Northeast Ohio Congresswoman brings experience at the local, state, and federal level to the gubernatorial campaign. At the age of 29, she became the youngest woman ever elected to the Ohio House of Representatives.

After leaving the Ohio House, Sutton served three terms in Congress before losing a 2010 race to Jim Renacci, a conservative Tea Party favorite, in a district that was redrawn to favor Republicans.

She’s since worked as the administrator of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation. She was appointed to the post by former President Obama and left the office during the transition to President Trump.

“As a legislator, we got things done,” Sutton says. “We put people back to work. I authored a program that was credited with putting 60,000 people back to work in the auto industry.”

Sutton talked to WOSU's Steve Brown about her experience in government and why she thinks Ohio needs to change its priorities.

Steve Brown: Why run now?

Betty Sutton: Well, it's time for a change of priorities in Ohio. We need to focus on creating jobs and opportunities for working families, rather than just giving tax breaks to the most privileged and powerful. Ohio deserves a governor who does more than just shake the tired hands of workers, but who has actually stood up and fight for working families and that is what I've done with my life.

Betty Sutton visits Sweet Mary's Bakery in Akron to celebrate International Women's Day.
Credit Betty Sutton/Facebook

Steve Brown: If you had to list just a few, what would you say are your main priorities. Is it jobs? Is it working class voters? What would you say they are?

Betty Sutton: Well, my main priorities are ordinary Ohioans, working families, and we need policies that are aimed at working with and for them.

Steve Brown: You talk about working class families. Many of those working class families and voters voted for Donald Trump last year. You worked under President Obama. You lost your last congressional race in 2012 to a Tea Party favorite, Jim Renacci, that was a district that was redrawn to favor Republicans. But that said, Ohioans said they want to go in in a different way away from establishment Democrats?

Betty Sutton: I think people want to go in a way with a government that will work for and with them. Certainly, I was gerrymandered out of my district, certainly in 2010, 2012. But with that said, I still believe that people want leaders who are inspiring they want to be inspired and they want someone who understands them and what their needs are what their hopes and their dreams are and that's the kind of governor I'll be.

Steve Brown: You entered the race about a week after Youngstown Congressman Tim Ryan said he would not run. Did that affect your decision?

Betty Sutton: No. This race for me is not about anyone else who may or may not get into it. It really is about the people of Ohio who I want to serve, who I want to stand up for and give a voice to and produce results for. 

I've had the privilege to serve at the city, the county, the state and the federal level as a legislator we got things done, we put people back to work. I authored a program that was credited with putting 60,000 back to work in the auto industry, and I also had the privilege to serve as an executive in the administration. So I think that we're ready to deliver results for Ohio and I want to be that leader.

Sutton meets voters during her failed 2012 Congressional reelection campaign.
Credit Betty Sutton/Facebook

Steve Brown: You say you're not concerned with who else is in the race. That said, you will have a Democratic opponent, Ohio Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni. He has a good story. He's a former butcher, a boxer, an attorney for injured workers. How do you separate yourself from him?

Betty Sutton: Well, my whole life has been about standing up for working families. I've done it as a legislator at the city, county, state, federal levels. I was a union-side labor lawyer, who represented our first responders our firefighters and teachers. And frankly really produced results when I was in Congress, able to bring people together from both sides of the aisle to pass legislation to put firefighters back on the job, to put auto workers back on the job and so you know we'll take the case to the voters.

But I have respect for others who will be in this race and it's not about them, it's about making sure that we have somebody who understands and appreciates the diversity of our great state. Small business owners to our trade workers to working parents who work in or out of the home. We need a governor who knows that everyone matters from every part of the state.

Steve Brown: Can you raise enough money to compete with big names like Mike DeWine, John Husted or Mary Taylor?

Betty Sutton: I’m confident that we will have the resources we need to run the kind of campaign that will be a winning campaign to get the message out and that we can deliver not only in the campaign but as governor.