During her three terms in the United States House of Representatives, Betty Sutton focused on needs of her Ohio constituents and of America’s middle class. Sutton’s blue-collar upbringing guided her legislative agenda. “Here I am, just a generation later, this daughter, this proud daughter of a boilermaker in the House of Representatives with a chance to fight for families just like mine.”1
The youngest of six children, Betty Sutton was born Elizabeth (Betty) Sue on July 31, 1963, to Leo and Mary Lou Sutton in Barberton, Ohio. After serving in the military during World War II, her father, Leo, worked as a boilermaker and her mother, Mary Lou, worked as a clerk-treasurer for the city library.2 In high school, Sutton decided to pursue a career in public service. She graduated from Barberton High School in 1981, received a bachelor’s degree from Kent State University in 1985, and earned a law degree from the University of Akron in 1990.3 Her first marriage ended in divorce. Sutton later married Doug Corwon. She has two stepchildren.4
Sutton rose through local office at a rapid pace. In 1989 she served on the Barberton city council, and two years later earned a seat on the Summit County, Ohio, council, where she served as president. In 1992 Sutton ran for and won a seat in the Ohio state house of representatives. At the time, she was the youngest woman to ever serve in the state legislature. In the state house, Sutton authored legislation that would have required police to make an arrest on all domestic violence calls. Sutton remained in the state house until term limits forced her to leave the legislature in 2000. She returned to her legal career and worked as a labor lawyer.5
After Representative Sherrod Brown of Ohio decided to run for the Senate in 2006, Sutton jumped into a crowded Democratic primary to fill the Akron-based seat. She won the eight-candidate primary with 31 percent of the vote, defeating top candidates Thomas Charles Sawyer, a former U.S. Representative, and Cleveland city councilman Gary Kucinich. Sutton received endorsements from labor unions and ran on an anti-corruption platform, pledging to invest in local universities and help develop alternative fuel industries. In the general election for the 110th Congress (2007–2009), she defeated Republican Craig Foltin with 61 percent of the vote. Sutton won re-election to the two succeeding Congresses with more than 55 percent of the vote.6
The 2006 mid-term election cycle saw Democrats capture the House majority for the first time in 12 years. Sutton was elected president of the class of first-term Democrats and worked closely with party leadership to set the Democratic Caucus’s agenda. “In Betty Sutton, her colleagues have chosen a Freshman Class President whose intellect and passion will be an invaluable resource for the Democratic Caucus and the entire Congress,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.7
In her first term, Sutton served on three powerful committees: Budget; Rules; and Judiciary. As a sophomore in the 111th Congress (2009–2011), she joined the exclusive Energy and Commerce Committee, which allowed her to work on policy important to businesses and voters in her district. In the 112th Congress (2011–2013), when Republicans won control of the House, Sutton lost her seat on Energy and Commerce, and joined the Natural Resources and Armed Services Committees.8
In her first term, Sutton was the lead sponsor of the CARS program (Car Allowance Rebate System) also known as “Cash for Clunkers,” which provided tax refunds to car owners who traded in older model vehicles for newer more fuel-efficient cars. The program, which benefited the Ohio car manufacturing facilities located in and around her district, came amid a rescue effort to save the auto industry amid the financial collapse and the Great Recession. “I am pleased that the demand created by the Cash for Clunkers program is helping to put people back to work, which was one of the primary goals of the legislation,” she said.9
In the 111th Congress, Sutton introduced the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.10 The bill, which became law on January 4, 2011, expanded the Food and Drug Administration’s authority to protect the food supply chain and added additional safety regulations. “This much-needed legislation will help ensure that the food in our children’s lunch boxes and on our family’s dinner table is safe to eat.” Sutton continued, “The bill gives the FDA the authority it needs to protect the American people and keep toxic food products off our shelves.”11
Sutton also worked to provide America’s schools with crucial lifesaving equipment. Twice—first in June 2008 and again in June 2009—the House passed the Josh Miller HEARTS Act, which Sutton introduced to create a grant program to provide primary and secondary schools with automated external defibrillators as well as training on how to properly use them. The bill was named after a young man from Barberton who died of a heart attack during a football game in 2000.12
After the 2010 Census, the state of Ohio lost two seats in the House. In 2012 state redistricting pitted Sutton against one-term incumbent Republican Jim Renacci. Renacci defeated Sutton with 52 percent of the votes. In her concession speech, Sutton remarked, “Coming from an ordinary, working class background and making it here, I feel so very grateful for having had the chance, and doing what my office and I have been able to do.”13
After an initial gubernatorial run in 2018, Sutton ran for lieutenant governor that year as the Democratic nominee but lost to Republican Jon Husted with 47 percent of the vote.14
1Tracy Carloss, “Congresswoman Betty Sutton in Unique Race Against Another Incumbent, Jim Renacci,” 23 October 2012, Newsnet5.com, https:// web.archive.org/web/20121025062714/http://www.newsnet5.com/dpp/ news/political/congresswoman-betty-sutton-in-a-unique-race-against-anotherincumbent-jim-renacci.
2Damon Sims, “U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton Finding Success in Congress: Her ‘Cash for Clunkers’ Ideas a Hit,” 16 August 2009, Cleveland.com, https://www. cleveland.com/open/index.ssf/2009/08/us_representative_betty_sutton.html.
3Jesse Harris, “Rep. Betty Sutton, 50 Most Beautiful People on Capitol Hill,” 29 July 2008, The Hill: n.p
4“Ohio Candidate Betty Sutton Revisits Personal Domestic Abuse Experience,” 29 August 2018, Cincinnati Enquirer, https://www.cincinnati.com/story/ news/politics/2018/08/29/ohio-candidate-betty-sutton-democrat-lieutenantgovernor-domestic-abuse/1131693002/.
5Sabrina Eaton, “The Brains Behind ‘Cash for Clunkers,’” 17 August 2009, Cleveland Plain Dealer: A1; Kent Mallett, “Lieutenant Governor Candidate Visits Town,” 5 October 2018, The Advocate (Newark, OH): A2; T. C. Brown, “DomesticViolence Bill Approved,” 18 November 1994, Cleveland Plain Dealer: 7B.
6Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives, “Election Statistics, 1920 to Present”; Politics in America, 2010 (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 2009): 806; Chris Seper, “Sutton Overwhelms Foltin for Brown’s House Seat,” 8 November 2006, Cleveland Plain Dealer: S4.
7“Betty Sutton Elected to Lead Democratic Freshman Class,” 9 July 2008, La Prensa (Detroit, MI), http://detroithispanicnewspapers.com/ Stories/2008/071808/Sutton.htm.
8Sabrina Eaton, “Reps. Sutton and Tim Ryan to Serve on the Armed Services Committee,” 21 July 2011, Cleveland.com, https://www.cleveland.com/ open/2011/01/reps_betty_sutton_and_tim_ryan.html.
9“Rep. Betty Sutton Announces That 1,100 People Will Return to Work at GM Plant in Lordstown, Ohio,” official website of Representative Betty Sutton, press release, 2 September 2009, https://web.archive.org/ web/20090902081453/http://sutton.house.gov/news/story.cfm?id=282.
10FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, H.R. 2751, 111th Cong. (2009); FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, PL 111-353, 124 Stat. 3885 (2011).
11“Rep. Sutton and House Approve Food Safety Bill,” official website of Representative Betty Sutton, press release, 8 December 2010, https://web.archive. org/web/20110116055909/http://sutton.house.gov/news/story.cfm?id=417.
12Josh Miller Helping Everyone Access Responsive Treatment in Schools Act of 2008, H.R. 4926, 110th Cong. (2007); Josh Miller HEARTS Act, H.R. 1380, 111th Cong. (2009); Marc Kovac, “State Provides Lifesaving Defibrillators to Schools,” 3 December 2007, Daily Record (Wooster, OH): n.p.
13“Election Statistics, 1920 to Present”; Sabrina Eaton, “Betty Sutton Says She’s Grateful for Her Time in Congress,” 25 December 2012, Cleveland.com, https://www.cleveland.com/open/2012/12/betty_sutton_says_shes_gratefu.html.
14Ohio secretary of state, “Summary-Level Official Results for 2018 Primary Election-Democratic,” 8 May 2018, https://www.ohiosos.gov/elections/ election-results-and-data/2018-official-elections-results/.