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Former Republican congressman Steve LaTourette has made it his mission in retirement to destroy the Tea Party and other conservative voices within the GOP that refuse to compromise on issues like amnesty for illegal immigrants, the bailouts, raising the debt ceiling, and a full repeal of Obamacare. Through his Mainstreet conglomerate, including his Defending Mainstreet SuperPAC, LaTourette has been injecting himself into races across the country.
No race better exemplifies the war of ideas within the GOP like the one in Ohio’s 14th congressional district between Congressman Dave Joyce, who succeeded LaTourette when he abruptly retired from Congress last year, and Ohio State Representative Matt Lynch, an unapologetic Tea Party conservative.
Lynch made himself a target when he voted against Governor Kasich’s biennial budget (it raised taxes and increased state spending) and was one of six members of the Ohio House who sued to stop Kasich from using the unelected Controlling Board to expand Medicaid in the state after the legislature refused to include it in the state budget.
The payback for Lynch’s disloyalty to Kasich? Sarah LaTourette (Steve’s daughter), who is married to Kasich field director Scott Kayser, decided to run against Lynch for his seat in the Ohio House, ending the Ohio Republican Party’s de facto ban on challenging incumbents. In response, Lynch decided to run for Congress against Dave Joyce, LaTourette’s handpicked successor.
The fundraising has been completely lopsided with Joyce raising $1.6 million in addition to $511,000 in outside expenditures. Lynch has raised $90,000 with $62,000 in outside spending (mostly from Freedomworks and Tea Party Patriots). The Chamber of Commerce has dumped $350,000 into the effort to re-elect Joyce and the pro-Obamacare American Hospital Association has spent $115,000, ostensibly to protect their interests (Joyce has said that he doesn’t believe that full repeal of Obamacare is an option). LaTourette’s Defending Mainstreet SuperPAC (which is largely funded by unions and Democrats) has spent $139,200 on the race, much of that on a constant flood of mailers to Republican voters in the district claiming that Joyce (with a 49% Heritage Action rating) is the true conservative in the race. Lynch has rightly questioned why a group that has vowed to take out conservatives is supporting Joyce, who is alleging to be a staunch conservative in this election.
Perhaps most despicable is that the Defending Mainstreet SuperPAC is now attacking Lynch’s conservative credentials, deceptively mischaracterizing last year’s budget battle in Ohio. “Matt Lynch fought Governor Kasich on balancing the budget and cutting income taxes. On May 6th tell Matt Lynch we’ve had enough of politicians who won’t balance the budget and cut taxes,” a mailer sent to Republican voters read. Defending Mainstreet SuperPAC spent $27,850 last week and used Gov. Kasich’s picture to deceive voters in the 14th district about Lynch’s record.
Ohio Liberty Coalition explained last year’s budget dust-up this way:
In his capacity as State Representative, Matt Lynch was one of only six House Republicans who voted against Governor Kasich’s biennial budget, but he did so because the budget bill increased state spending and taxes. The budget increased spending by more than $8 billion, and while Kasich proudly claims to have reduced income taxes, this reduction was paid for through a hike in the sales tax, the elimination of the property tax “rollback,” and changes to the homestead exemption.
Incidentally, in addition to retribution from the governor and the Ohio Republican Party, the American Conservative Union downgraded the ratings of Lynch and other conservatives who voted against the biennial budget. The ACU’s “Defender of Liberty” awards went to members of the legislature that almost no one recognizes as conservatives in the state.
Oddly enough, Dave Joyce has tried to distance himself from the Mainstreet Partnership, explaining in the endorsement interview with the Plain Dealer that “Mainstreet Partnership is not a group, it’s a PAC, which provides briefing papers on things like healthcare and other things they provide, just like these other organizations do.” Joyce said that LaTourette, his friend for thirty years, has been very kind to him, but that “It’s not an organization in which we’re card-carrying members.”
Lynch challenged Joyces assertion that he is not a member of the Mainstreet Partnership.“It’s almost comical that the Congressman talks about he’s not a member of Mainstreet Partners,” Lynch said. “You go on their website and you’ll see his picture there with a couple of dozen other members on the website, so he is absolutely part of Mainstreet Partners and a member of that organization.”
Though both are running as Republicans, the candidates have very different views on everything from Obamacare (Lynch would fight for full repeal while Joyce says it’s now the law of the land) to the president’s executive overreach (Lynch says impeachment is the ultimate remedy, Joyce thinks the attorney general and the president should come to the table to talk about it).
Joyce thinks that big government is a force for good, something that can be managed effectively as long as there is bipartisan cooperation. “For every billion dollars spent in infrastructure that’s 35,000 jobs that are either created or retained in northeast Ohio and that’s important to us,” Joyce told the Plain Dealer editorial board. Lynch is more in the Reagan camp, believing that government is the problem. “The reality is that the conservative agenda, as shown by Ronald Reagan and others, is great policy,” Lynch said, “It’s the policy of prosperity. It’s the policy of jobs. It’s the policy of liberty. And those are the policies that I stand for, clearly and brightly, with no equivocation…. As long as we promote those policies we will not only have prosperity in this country, but we’ll have political success as well.”
Lynch has been endorsed by FreedomWorks, Tea Party Patriots, Ohio Liberty Coalition (the statewide tea party group), National Association of Gun Owners, Cuyahoga Valley Republicans, and most of the conservative advocacy groups in the state, including Ohio Right to Life, Citizens for Community Values, and Ohioans for Educational Freedom. Lynch also picked up an endorsement from Ron Paul last week after his appearance on the Glenn Beck show to talk about his opposition to Common Core. Joyce, has been endorsed by the Plain Dealer, the Chamber of Commerce, the National Rifle Association, and the Ohio Republican Party.
Interestingly, Michael Wager, the Democrat candidate who will face the winner of Tuesday’s GOP primary, has been running anti-Lynch ads, saying that he’s too conservative for Ohio and listing Lynch’s endorsements. This move has raised speculation about whether Wager is beginning the general election campaign early or hoping to take out Joyce, thinking Lynch would be the easier candidate to beat.
The amount of money that special interests are pouring into this race demonstrates how nervous the establishment wing of the GOP is about losing a solid moderate like Joyce in the swing state of Ohio. The outcome of Tuesday’s primary could be a bellwether for the direction Ohio leans in the next election and the candidate the state selects in the 2017 presidential primary.