While the Butler County Republican Party endorsed Speaker of the House John Boehner for re-election to Ohio’s 8th Congressional District, more than a quarter of the party said “no” despite the perception that “this is John Boehner’s house,” as one unidentified Republican shouted at last week’s endorsement meeting.
The West Chester Twp. Republican has been criticized by many in his party, including those who are tea party members, about not standing up for conservative values. This is why a few men in the 8th Congressional District, an area Boehner’s represented since he won in a surprise primary over former Congressman Tom Kindness, are seeking to unseat him. This is also why the Tea Party Leadership Fund announced last week it will seek a primary opponent for Boehner and launched www.PrimaryBoehner.com to oppose him.
Last week, the Butler County Republican Party voted to endorse Boehner in the contested May primary, though only 73.8 percent of the party voted to endorse him. It’s the lowest percentage for the party to endorse Boehner many longtime members could remember, though vote totals for previous years had not been recorded.
The party has supported Boehner since his first re-election bid in 1992. The party supported Kidness in 1990 following the scandal that led to Buz Lukens’ resignation in October of that year. On Thursday, 268 out of 363 votes went to endorse Boehner. However 26.2 percent went to either one of two political opponents — J.D. Winteregg, a Cedarville University teacher, or West Chester Twp. businessman Eric Gurr — or to not endorse any of the three.
Butler County Republican Party Chairman Todd Hall said it’s more internal factors with the party as to why Boehner didn’t get more support.
“It’s a reflection on us, more so than with John,” said Hall, who was elected last week to lead the party. “A year from now, that number would be completely different, and that comes back to the word unity, which I’m striving for.”
The Butler County GOP has been a divided party, which was one of the reasons former chairman Dave Kern resigned last month, despite being the dominant party in the county for decades.
Hall also said the split vote between three men also played into the reason of the low percentage for endorsement.
“It’s not a negative,” he said. “It’s hard to get in the 70 and 80 percentile.”
The party could not come to a consensus to endorse three countywide seats on Thursday. The party will not endorse a Republican candidate in the May 6 primary for Butler County commission, auditor or the contested common pleas court judge seats. The commission and auditor races both have incumbents seeking re-election.
“I think the vote was a direct correlation of where we are as a party,” said Hall. “We are Butler County, and we are John Boehner. John has to make difficult decisions and we’re not privy to all the information. I support him 100 percent, and 74 percent of the party supports him 100 percent. We just have to work on the other 26 percent.”
The Journal-News reached out Monday to Boehner’s office for a comment about the endorsement vote, and spokeswoman Kara Hauck wrote: “Congressman Boehner is honored to again have the endorsement and strong support of the Butler County Republican Party, and he looks forward to continuing to represent our shared conservative principles in the U.S. House.”
Butler County Democratic Central Committee chair Kathy Wyenandt said the “lackluster” support from his hometown party “illustrates the frustration that many voters are feeling — across party lines — with Boehner’s lack of leadership in Congress … while he plays partisan games in order to score points against the President.”
The Butler County Democrats are supporting Miami University professor Tom Poetter against Boehner — who hasn’t failed to receive close to 60 percent in every a primary or general election — in November.
Fairfield Tea Party member Adriana Inman said there are a number of reasons why Republicans, tea party members and conservatives are upset with Boehner, even in “John Boehner’s House.”
“This is John Boehner’s territory in the sense that Butler County for some reason loves him,” said Inman, who is also a member of the Butler County Republican Party and voted in many of the endorsement votes. She chose not to vote in the 8th Ohio Congressional District race because “he was going to get the endorsement so it didn’t matter to me.”
Inman said people on both sides of the aisle are upset with Boehner’s job performance, and many conservatives and members of tea parties across the country are upset with his stances on amnesty and hiring Sen. John McCain’s former chief of staff to lead House immigration efforts. They are also upset, she said with his stances on Syria and his economic policies.
“I understand he’s playing to a bigger audience in Washington, D.C., other than Butler County, and there are a lot of people that are upset with him. I don’t think it’s just the tea party,” she said.
Inman agreed with Hall that the Republican Party’s lack of unity could be a reason for the average vote total.
“As a conservative person, I definitely want out of this a unified party that stands behind what we say instead of waffling all over the place,” she said.
Mark Etterling, a member of the county GOP and member of the Liberty Tea Party, voted to support Gurr because his economic policies discussed during the endorsement meeting that “he had a much better grasp of the principles of economics than Boehner has shown in the past.”
“It has to do with him not being vocal enough against bad policies of the liberals. Boehner needs to be more forceful of (conservative) positions … and make the left explain their positions rather than defending our positions,” he said. “He has the biggest megaphone conservative can have at this point, and he needs to be using it.”
And getting along with those across the aisle is less important for Etterling.
“I don’t want my politicians to get along,” he said, “I want them to get it right.”