House Speaker John Boehner easily turned back a challenge from two tea party conservatives to win the Republican congressional primary, making it highly likely he will be re-elected in his heavily GOP district in November.
But Boehner, R-West Chester Twp., had his toughest primary challenge since his first race for Congress in 1990. With more than 90 percent of the vote in, Boehner had slightly above 71 percent of the vote, compared to 23 percent for J.D. Winteregg, a high school French teacher from Troy; and less than 6 percent for Eric Gurr, a Liberty Twp. businessman.
Boehner had received at least 80 percent of the vote in every primary since 1992.
In essence, his district is a microcosm for a major struggle within the Republican Party between the establishment headed by Boehner and the insurgent tea party conservatives who demand a more confrontational approach with President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats.
Shortly after 9 p.m., Boehner issued a statement saying he was “humbled to have such strong support from the people of the 8th Congressional District, and I look forward to continuing to lead the U.S. House in addressing our shared priorities of jobs and the economy. With better solutions I know we can break America free from the Obama Economy’s sluggish growth.”
The tea party also seems to have fallen short in its effort to oust Rep. David Joyce, R-Russell Twp. In early returns, Joyce was taking 56.2 percent of the vote compared to 43.7 percent for challenger Matt Lynch, a member of the Ohio House.
“The tea party in Ohio is active, but they’re may be a little more sizzle than steak,’’ said Curt Steiner, a longtime Republican consultant in Ohio. “Until they can prove they can field good candidates, get organized, raise money and deliver a message, they’re not going to be mature.’’
Robert T. Bennett, former chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, said the “tea party folks had a bad night in Ohio in their high-profile races.’’
Boehner launched his most aggressive re-election campaign in years. He blitzed the district with brochures touting his re-election and made a number of appearances, including Monday at the Machintek Corp., a machining, welding and fabrication manufacturer in Fairfield.
He also poured money into TV commercials in Dayton and Cincinnati, the two media markets which anchor the district. From April 3 through Tuesday, Boehner bought $84,500 worth of TV commercials on WHIO-TV in Dayton.
By contrast, neither Winteregg nor Gurr could raise enough money to mount a TV campaign. During the final five days of the campaign, Winteregg aired $3,075 worth of radio commercials on WHIO Radio. A national tea party group ran anti-Boehner ads in the district, but only on radio.
Winteregg attracted national attention when he produced an internet video in which he claimed to be the cure of “electile dysfunction,” a reference to Boehner serving in the House since 1991.
But that video prompted Cedarville University, a Christian school in Greene County, to dismiss Winteregg as an adjunct professor of French. Winteregg had conducted an online French class each semester at Cedarville for the past three years.
Butler County Republican Executive Chairman Todd Hall said the tea party wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars challenging Boehner.
“You’re not going to come to Butler County and beat John Boehner, who is our endorsed candidate,” Hall said. “This is John Boehner’s country. I think people need to revisit … and think long and hard before they put up $360,000 and try to take him out.”
Hall also said those who complained about Boehner in advance of the primary obviously didn’t voice their opinions with their vote.
“I think people can stand in the corner and scream as loud as they want to, but their opinion isn’t valued at the end of the day,” he said.
After casting her vote at Lakota’s Independence Elementary School on Tuesday, Danielle Gingrich, of Liberty Twp. acknowledged that Boehner is disliked by “a lot of people in Washington.” But, she said, “John Boehner is a strong leader.”
Roger Faulkner, interviewed outside his polling place in Monroe, said he voted for one of his Republican challengers. Boehner used to campaign on cutting spending, but has since “caved,” according to Faulkner.
“I think he likes to spend money,” he said.
Winteregg said he had knocked on 20,000 doors over the past year and talked to more than 10,000 voters.
“It’s stunning how many Ohioans are frustrated with our leaders in D.C.,” he said. “After talking with so many passionate Ohioans on this campaign, I feel tonight is not the end but just the beginning of taking back our country.”