Political hodgepodge: 3 very different GOP candidates compete for 13th District

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Kevin Coughlin is a former state legislator turned businessman who is hoping for a political comeback.

Chris Banweg is a Hudson councilman and Marine colonel who compares himself to the lead character in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

Richard Morckel is a former television technician for the Goodyear blimp who has never held office but says this “ought to be a plus.”

The three Republican candidates for the 13th Congressional District have very different backgrounds and political experience.

The victor in the March 19 primary will face off against U.S. Rep. Emilia Sykes, D-Akron, who will attempt in November to retain the seat she won in 2022.

After a redrawing of boundaries, the 13th District includes all of Akron and Summit County as well as the northern half of Stark County and a small part of Portage County.

Coughlin, who held political office for 16 years and once led an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow long-time Summit GOP Chairman Alex Arshinkoff, has emerged as the frontrunner in the primary race. He has the support of the 13th District’s three county party chairs, as well as a long list of elected officials.

Coughlin also has raised the most of the three candidates, bringing in $273,507, which included a personal loan of $150,000, according to the latest federal campaign finance reports.

“It’s good to be back,” Coughlin said in a recent interview.

Banweg, though, came close to matching Coughlin’s campaign coffers, bringing in $220,481 without a sizeable personal loan. He paints Coughlin as a “career politician.”

“We need a different solution,” he said.

Morckel has only raised about $500, putting him at a distinct disadvantage. He’s trying to get his message out through his website, social media and flyers sent in the mail.

Chris Banweg: The ‘outsider’ politician

When Banweg was first asked to run for Congress, his immediate reaction was, “No.”

However, Banweg said he talked to his wife and kids and they encouraged him to enter the race.

“You need to do this,” Banweg said his kids told him. “We’re okay with losing you again so you can help people.”

Chris Banweg, an at-large Hudson councilman
Chris Banweg, an at-large Hudson councilman

Banweg, 45, is a colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve who was deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East. He is now an executive for a medical device company and was elected as an at-large Hudson councilman in 2021.

Banweg thinks the major issues facing the district are the border crisis – especially because of the influx of fentanyl and human trafficking – inflation, and crime and justice.

With his military background, Banweg also has an interest in veteran’s issues. He pushed for Hudson to create a military and veteran's commission. At the federal level, he said he thinks the Veteran’s Administration needs to make good on its promises, including providing prompt medical care.

U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance
U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance

Banweg said he is pro-life and supports federal legislation that would prevent foreign aid from funding abortions.

Banweg was endorsed by Sen. J.D. Vance, which he said he thinks earned because they are both Marines and share a “common outsider perspective.”

Kevin Coughlin: The returning politician

Coughlin says he never intended to run for office again.

Coughlin served in the Ohio House and Senate from 1997 to 2011, losing his Senate seat to term limits. He considered running for governor and the U.S. Senate but decided against it.

Kevin Coughlin
Kevin Coughlin

Coughlin, 53, was the clerk in Stow Municipal Court for two years before losing the seat in 2015. His time as clerk was rocky, including questions about a contract he helped award and whether he was working enough. Coughlin accused his Democratic opponent of lying.

Since Coughlin left the clerk's office, he has been concentrating on his business, Lexington Companies, which he said does marketing for businesses and nonprofits and direct mail for political parties and candidates.

Coughlin, who helped lead a failed coup to unseat Arshinkoff in 2008 and 2010, a move he says he now regrets, has mended fences with the local GOP. In fact, Bryan Williams, who replaced Arshinkoff as chairman, was the first person to urge him to run for the 13th District.

Summit County Republican Party Chairman Bryan Williams
Summit County Republican Party Chairman Bryan Williams

Coughlin said the 13th District is a toss-up district and he has a history of winning races in politically divided areas.

Coughlin thinks the most important issues in the district are the rising cost of living and border safety. He also said people are tired of Congress not getting anything done.

“Much of Congress seems to be theater,” he said. “They are there to be famous.”

Coughlin said he would be an “impact player” in Congress like he was in Columbus.

Coughlin said he thinks the Great Lakes need to be preserved, both because of their value as both a natural and economic resource.

Coughlin, who has been criticized by Democrats on social media because of his anti-abortion stance, said he recognizes that voters approved a Constitutional amendment for reproductive rights. He said it remains to be seen which of the state’s abortion restrictions will endure, including requirements for a waiting period and parental consent.

“There’s a lot of work that can be done to give compassionate care to people going through a difficult decision,” he said.

Richard Morckel: The non-politician

Morckel is running for the 13th District seat for the third time because he doesn’t like what he sees happening.

He said the United States is like the submarine that exploded on its way to view the sunken Titanic ship.

“We are going to reach a critical depth and implode,” he said. “We continue diving deeper and deeper.”

Richard Morckel
Richard Morckel

Morckel worked for Goodyear’s airship operations for 23 years, helping with television operations. He now works part-time at Menard’s.

Morckel said his mission is “the defense of our representative republic.” He said he supports a reduction of federal spending, campaign finance reform, and finishing the wall that borders Mexico.

Morckel also would like to take steps to reduce the cost of insulin, which 7 million to 8 million people in the U.S. need.

Morckel said he is opposed to abortion except in the case of rape, incest or the critical health of the mother.

Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at swarsmith@thebeaconjournal.com, 330-996-3705 and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj. 

About the 13th District candidates:

Name: Chris Banweg

Personal: 45. Lives in Hudson. Married with three kids.

Professional: Director of strategy for a medical device company in Northeast Ohio. He is also a colonel with the Marine Corps.

Political offices: Elected an at-large Hudson councilman in 2021.

Favorite political movie or TV show: “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

Campaign website: https://www.banwegforcongress.com.

Name: Kevin Coughlin

Personal: 53. Lives in Bath Township. Married with two children.

Professional: President of Lexington Companies, a marketing firm.

Political offices: State representative, 1997 to 2001. State senator, 2001 to 2011. Clerk of Stow Municipal Court, 2013 to 2015.

Favorite political movie or TV show: “The Thick of It,” a BBC show.

Campaign website: https://kevincoughlin.com/

Name: Richard Morckel

Personal: 69. Lives in Akron. Married with two children.

Professional: Formerly worked as a television technician for the Goodyear blimp. Currently works part-time for Menard’s.

Political offices: Ran twice before for the 13th District Congressional seat.

Favorite political movie or TV show: “The Incredibles.”

Campaign website: https://morckelforcongress.com.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: 13th District GOP candidates' experience and backgrounds differ