All seven current and former auto dealers running for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives won on Election Day, mostly by comfortable margins.
Winners include Roger Williams, R-Texas, a former Texas secretary of state who runs a Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram store in suburban Fort Worth, and Jim Renacci, R-Ohio, the co-owner of a Chevrolet dealership that was rejected as General Motors went through bankruptcy.
Williams won his first term in Congress comfortably with 58 percent of the vote, but Renacci was narrowly re-elected over Democratic Rep. Betty Sutton after Ohio lost two seats in Congress and the state's redistricting plan forced the two incumbents to compete. Renacci won 52 percent to 48 percent, a margin of around 15,000 votes.
Renacci and Sutton were competing to represent a district south of Cleveland. True to form in Ohio, the race included heated debate about Washington's handling of the auto industry.
Sutton, a labor lawyer, authored the House bill that created the Cash for Clunkers program. Congress passed that law in mid-2009, at the peak of the recession, in a bid to boost auto sales by offering cash incentives to customers who turned in old vehicles for new, fuel-efficient models.
Though groups such as the National Automobile Dealers Association have concluded that Cash for Clunkers boosted sales, Renacci pointed out during the campaign that Washington's intervention wasn't enough to save his store and other companies in the industry.
"I saw what it did," he said last month during an interview with the editorial board of the Sun Star-Courier, a suburban Cleveland newspaper. "That act didn't create jobs, it destroyed them."
Winning re-election by more comfortable margins Tuesday were:
- Scott Rigell, R-Va, who owns Ford and Volvo dealerships.
- Mike Kelly, R-Pa., who owns a Chevrolet store.
- Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., who has sold some of his several dealerships and had his Dodge dealership rejected during the Chrysler bailout.
- John Campbell, R-Calif., who sold several dealerships, including one of the first Saturn stores, when elected in 2004.
- Bill Shuster, R-Pa., who sold his Chrysler dealership when first elected in 2000.