Speaker of the House John Boehner is not expected to lose his primary challenge on Tuesday, but the 12-term congressman is facing one of his toughest political tests he’s ever faced locally in the election.
In addition to his two opponents — J.D. Winteregg of Troy, and Eric Gurr of Liberty Twp. — Boehner has received pressure and criticism from members of his own party in Washington, D.C., and nationally about being perceived by some as weak and not standing up to Democrats — especially President Barack Obama and Democratic Senate leaders.
He’s been criticized for his votes that ended the partial government shutdown, his position on immigration reform, and not doing enough to defund or repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Just this week he took heat by those in his party over his teasing comments saying his Republican colleagues believed tackling immigration reform was “too hard.”
But despite how people feel about the 8th Ohio Congressional District representative on the national stage, people of the now-six county district have sent him back to Washington 12 times, and by staggering margins since 1992 — his first re-election bid to Congress.
He has garnered at least 80 percent of the vote in every contested primary he’s had. Boehner’s district includes all or parts of Butler, Clark, Miami, Preble, Darke and Mercer counties.
The West Chester Twp. Republican, however, has never seen the amount of opposition in a re-election campaign. More than $315,000 has been spent opposing Boehner by Alexandria, Va.-based Tea Party Leadership Fund PAC in its attempt to “Fire Boehner” and support its candidate, Winteregg.
And even if Boehner doesn’t win by his historical margin of victory, as long as he wins, people in his home county — Butler County — believe: “a win is a win.”
“I think there’s only going to be one loss … the hundreds of thousands of dollars that these small groups outside of the 8th district has put together to basically smear the campaigns,” said Todd Hall, Butler County GOP executive chair. “That’s going to be the only true loss.”
Butler County resident Chris Wunnenberg said he doesn’t appreciate national tea party groups outside the 8th Ohio Congressional District — who he said some local tea party friends call “carpetbaggers” — impacting this election.
“He’s our congressman and if we want to take him out, we’ll take him out,” he said. “We don’t need them to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars running robocalls and putting out signs saying, ‘Fire Boehner.’”
Wunnenberg said these national tea party groups taking political aim at the leadership of the Republican Party in Washington, D.C., hope to knock off people like Boehner or Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky.
“If the (national) tea party can knock off one or both of those guys … they’ll be feared. And that’s their whole purpose is, the power of being feared,” he said.
If Boehner wins on Tuesday, he’ll take on the winner of the Democratic primary Tom Poetter, of Oxford, and Matthew Guyette, of Greenville.
What has Boehner done?
A common saying among those against Boehner is: what’s he done for the district?
Supporters say he’s helped secure the federal permit for the $500 million Meldahl hydroelectric power plant co-owned by the city of Hamilton in Butler County and American Municipal Power; helped move at the federal level the Butler County Regional Highway and Union Centre Boulevard interchange projects along; saved jobs at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base; and helped with the lack of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s action for the Tremont City Barrel Fill, a Superfund Alternative site believed to be affecting the local water supply.
Clark County Democratic Party Chair Dale Henry said Boehner has not represented Clark County well.
“He’s a part of that whole philosophy of not supporting anything that (President Barack) Obama is for. He’s hamstrung the country with his style of politics and we believe the people in our district would be better represented by new leadership,” Henry said.
Henry disputes that Boehner has assisted in the fight to protect the Tremont City Barrel Fill.
“If he’s really serious about doing something then why hasn’t he done it? It really hasn’t been his top priority. Where is his leadership? He’s missing in action,” Henry said.
Boehner has visited Clark County multiple times since 2012 when the area became a part of the district through redistricting.
Clark County Republican Party Chair Lynda Smith said Boehner has come to the area at least four or five times in the last year alone. She said he’s visited area manufacturing plants and addressed small business owners.
“He’s just been trying to help with the economy and the barrel fill is the big thing,” Smith said. “He’s been doing a good job for us and we’d like to keep him here.”
Ed Shelton, a former Hamilton city councilman and Butler County commissioner, said if anybody doesn’t believe Boehner hasn’t done anything for the district then they’re not paying attention, especially when it comes to the federal permit for the Meldahl power plant.
“Would we have gotten (Meldahl power plant) without John Boehner? I don’t know,” he said. “In my opinion, John Boehner got that for the city of Hamilton.”
Troy resident Brent Gerrity said he’s “not a huge fan of John Bohener” and believes “it doesn’t seem like he really stands up for what the base wants.”
“I feel like he’s been in Washington for too long,” said the 26-year-old. “For me and really for most people I know, immigration seems like a big issue. It seems like John Boehner is in favor of amnesty. I’m not; nobody I know is.”
He doesn’t support Boehner’s stance on immigration, and wants to see the health care law repealed — and not replaced as Boehner wants — but Gerrity said the congressman is doing a good job when it comes to the economy.
However, balancing his two duties, district representative and speaker of the House, is affecting Boehner, he believes.
“I think (the job of speaker) puts a lot of pressure on him and it doesn’t seem like he’s got the backbone to really stand tall for the base that’s here since he’s got pressures from outside,” Gerrity said. “It seems that sways him a lot.”
Ceal Turnbull, a retired East Miami School District counselor, said Boehner “represents our Midwest values” but sometimes she agrees and disagrees with decisions.
“I think we’re very fortunate, all that we have in this country. I would like to see that maintained,” Turnbull said. “I worry sometimes that we regulate ourselves into a corner.”
Tom Hunt, of Greenville, owns office and apartment buildings, and believes Boehner “stands behind what he says no matter how it looks on his part.”
“I just feel like he’s good for the economy. And I think the economy sucks. They keep saying it’s better and it’s not,” he said.
Jim McKee, a financial planner from Tipp City, said he doesn’t like the job Boehner’s done for the district.
“I have already voted and voted for one of the other Republican candidates. I’m disappointed he’s not staying true to his values,” he said. “I really liked his ideas. But I feel he has just kind of swayed. Like you get in Washington, D.C., and things change.”
McKee said one core value Boehner’s strayed from is limiting the size of government. McKee, who taught economics at Capital University for 16 years, said he’s fine with Boehner’s approach on social issues but takes exception with his stance on fiscal issues.
“They’ll say they’re cutting government spending, but they’re spending more and more money every year. And it’s these fake, Washington, D.C. cuts where we’re spending a billion dollars this year,” he said. “We say we’re going to spend $1.2 next year, but we’re going to cut spending. Cutting spending in their eyes is spending $1.1 billion. Well that’s still 10 percent more than you were last year. It’s fake cuts.”
Beth Akins, who takes care full time of an elderly aunt in Concord Twp. in Miami County, said though she’s voted for him in every congressional election, “I’m just very disappointed in what he’s doing the last three or four years, and maybe before that.”
She’s glad to have a choice of someone she views as “more conservative.”
“There’s a number of young men that are running that are probably going to be good candidates. And even if there wasn’t, I probably wouldn’t vote for him,” she said. “I just feel he’s not conservative enough. I think he’s following the liberal agenda in Washington and not standing up for what’s right.”
John Boehner Congressional Election History
John Boehner : 49%
Thomas Kindness: 32%
Donald Lukens: 17%
John Boehner: 61%
Gregory Jolivette: 39%
John Boehner: 74%
Fred Sennet: 26%
John Boehner: 70%
Jeffrey Kitchen: 26%
William Baker: 3%
John Boehner: 71%
John Griffin: 29%
John Boehner: 71%
John Parks: 26%
David Shock: 3%
John Boehner: 85%
Roger Thomas: 15%
John Boehner: 71%
Jeff Hardenbrook: 29%
John Boehner: 69%
Jeff Hardenbrook: 31%
John Boehner: 64%
Mort Meier: 36%
John Boehner: 68%
Nicholas Von Stein: 32%
John Boehner: 85%
Thomas McMasters: 10%
Manfred Schreyer: 5%
John Boehner: 66%
Justin Coussoule: 30%
David Harlow: 2%
James Condit: 2%
John Boehner: 84%
David Lewis: 16%
*Does not include write-in candidates
Source: Federal Elections Commission
What voters in the 8th District are saying about John Boehner
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* “For me and really for most people I know, immigration seems like a big issue. It seems like John Boehner is in favor of amnesty. I’m not; nobody I know is.” - Brent Gerrity of Troy.
* “There’s a number of young men that are running that are probably going to be good candidates. And even if there wasn’t, I probably wouldn’t vote for him,” she said. “I just feel he’s not conservative enough. I think he’s following the liberal agenda in Washington and not standing up for what’s right.” Beth Akins of Concord Twp.
* “I have already voted and voted for one of the other Republican candidates. I’m disappointed he’s not staying true to his values,” he said. “I really liked his ideas. But I feel he has just kind of swayed. Like you get in Washington, D.C. and things change.” - Jim McKee of Tipp City
* Says Boehner “represents our Midwest values”. “I think we’re very fortunate, all that we have in this country. I would like to see that maintained,” Turnbull said. “I worry sometimes that we regulate ourselves into a corner.” - Ceal Turnbull of Casstown
* “I just feel like he’s good for the economy. And I think the economy sucks. They keep saying it’s better and it’s not,” - Tom Hunt of Greenville
* “I would encourage him to visit Springfield more and I would like to see more of him here”- Billy Cline of Springfield
* “He’s our congressman and if we want to take him out, we’ll take him out,” - Chris Wunneberg of Butler County
ELECTION INSIDER 2014
Compare all of the candidates in the 8th congressional district race on issues such as taxes, Obamacare, foreign affairs and more in our interactive voters guide at vote.daytondailynews.com. Also, you can learn more about other candidates and issues on the May 6 ballot.
TV: We’ll have a roundup of election results Tuesday night on Newscenter 7 at 11 p.m.
Online: Get live results on our website starting around 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Newspaper: Get complete coverage and results on the election in Wednesday’s newspaper