For the first time in years, House Speaker John Boehner has a serious primary challenger. JD Winteregg is a self-described Tea Party candidate. The Speaker is worried enough to be running TV ads in the district, something he has seldom done in the past. Winteregg has an ad of his own, and it's sure to raise a few, er, eyebrows.
Why Boehner is worried
Winteregg has knocked on 20,000 doors and talked to over 10,000 voters in the district over the last year and a half. "None of them really have anything good to say about Boehner," Winteregg said. "Among their concerns, the number one thing that they tell me is that they're fed up with the people in DC and they want all the bums thrown out."
Voters are upset that Boehner has failed to live up to his promises about Obamacare. "Back in 2010, he said not one dime would go to funding Obamacare, and then in October, 2013 he voted to fund it."
Other issues on which Boehner is out of step with the district include amnesty for illegal immigrants and raising the debt ceiling.
"Basically the main issue with everyone in the district is he's out of step with us," Winteregg said. "He doesn't connect with us. He's been in DC too long, and he's forgotten his role, that we are his employer, that he's the employee. But I haven't forgotten about the district. I live here. I work here. I'm a high school teacher. I'm married to a beautiful wife -- I married up."
Ohio's 8th Congressional District shares a border with Indiana, a very conservative rural area. The district is the beneficiary of gerrymandering, becoming the most conservative district in Ohio. That's a double-edged sword for a Republican like Boehner, however, as voters in the district expect their representatives to be as conservative. The district's makeup makes it easier for any conservative Republican to win in the general election, so a win by the challenger will not likely reduce Republican numbers in the House.
Speaker Boehner remains personally conservative, but he has let his need to retain his position in DC and in the Republican Party take precedence over his personal beliefs. Boehner several times has allowed key bills to come up for passage with primarily Democrat support, with only a comparative handful of votes from his own party. So the question of whether Boehner is a conservative or not is moot: he hasn't acted as one.
The Tea Party Leadership Fund reportedly polled the district, finding Boehner at 49% approval, but his support dropped to 25% when paired against an unknown Republican candidate.
To highlight the absurdity of the Speaker's drift from the values of Western Ohio, Winteregg's team put together this video. Winteregg acknowledges the silliness of it, and says he has more serious ones ready to go.
"The number one issue for me and for millennials is Congressional dysfunction -- or electile dysfunction, you could say."
Since the Speaker has joked about his own name before, Winteregg said, that gives him permission to joke about it, as well.
While raising a few eyebrows with low-brow humor, most Republicans are more offended by the idea of giving President Obama a blank debt ceiling check until after the 2014 elections. Voters in the district see Boehner as enabling the Obama agenda -- an agenda they see as fundamentally un-American.
Some Republicans say it hurts party unity when people primary powerful Republicans like Boehner or Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
"I think that's something powerful Republicans came up with to preserve their power," said Winteregg. "I mean, look: we're Republicans. We believe in the free market. And that includes the free market of ideas. And the primary process is the time for that to play out. I mean, after the primary process, obviously we turn our sights to winning Republican seats, but up until then we want the strongest candidates in there, and the ones who best represent us. I think this process is amazing, and to think they're trying to stifle it and diminish the value of it is embarrassing."
"I believe firmly in the Republican values that are stated on the platform," added Winteregg. "I don't believe in what the establishment Republicans are doing right now."
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