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Rep. Emilia Sykes joins competitive US House race in Ohio

Julie Carr Smyth
Associated Press

Columbus, Ohio – Fourth-term state Rep. Emilia Sykes said Tuesday that she’s running for Congress, setting up a likely faceoff in a potentially newly competitive northeast Ohio district against Trump-backed Republican Max Miller.

“I’ve got some big news– I’m running for Congress!!,” the 35-year-old Democrat from Akron tweeted.

Ohio Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron)

Sykes’ announcement comes while Ohio’s congressional map remains in limbo, with the lines of her specific district – the 13th – uncertain. That’s after the Ohio Supreme Court invalidated a Republican-drawn version of the map Friday.

Sykes positioned herself for the run when she stepped down in December after three years as leader of the Ohio House Democratic caucus. During her Statehouse tenure, Sykes has often been mentioned as a possible candidate for higher office.

The Sykes name is well-known in Akron, where either Emilia; her mother, Barbara Sykes; or her father, Democratic state Sen. Vernon Sykes has held the same House seat since Vernon Sykes first won it in 1983. Barbara Sykes now serves as president and CEO of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus Foundation.

Miller, 32, who served as both a campaign and White House aide to former President Donald Trump, has a significant head start on Sykes and had raised $1.6 million as of September.

Former President Donald Trump laughs as Republican congressional candidate Max Miller speaks at a rally at the Lorain County Fairgrounds, Saturday, June 26, 2021, in Wellington, Ohio.

He launched his campaign against incumbent U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez in February 2021, shortly after Gonzalez joined nine other Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for his role in inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Miller was among 10 former Trump aides subpoenaed in December by the House committee investigating the uprising.

Gonzalez dropped out of the running in September, citing “the toxic dynamics” inside the Republican party. That would have left Miller a strong favorite in Gonzalez’s heavily Republican district. Under the new map, however, Miller was running – at least before the map was tossed Friday – in a 13th Congressional District that includes Akron, the liberal city where Sykes was born and raised.

Both Sykes and her father were members of the panel that created Ohio’s new congressional map, making the Akron-area district lean very slightly Democratic, one of only three out of 15 to do so. Neither voted for the map, which passed along party lines.

Though Sykes’ legislative service came during a time of strong Republican majorities at the Statehouse, she touts her successes on bipartisan priorities such as job creation, infrastructure investment, the fight against infant mortality and public health.

One of the early bills she co-sponsored, expanding the law governing domestic violence civil protection orders, became House Bill 1, the chamber’s top priority, and passed unanimously.

Sykes worked previously as a staff adviser in the Summit County Fiscal Office and as a law clerk to a federal bankruptcy judge. She is a graduate of Kent State University and the University of Florida, where she earned a master’s in public health and a law degree.