Members of the national tea party movement want Speaker of the House John Boehner out of Congress, and it has set up an expensive primary campaign in Boehner’s heavily Republican 8th Ohio Congressional District.
One of Boehner’s May 6 GOP primary opponents, high school and college teacher J.D. Winteregg of Troy, has the backing of the Tea Party Leadership Fund PAC, which has spent more than $300,000 either on pro-Winteregg or anti-Boehner advertisements.
But Boehner has tapped into the millions in his campaign finance coffers to air television and radio spots and send mailers to residents in the sprawling district, which flanks Dayton on both the north and south.
Boehner is also facing a challenge from a pair of Liberty Twp. Republicans: Eric Gurr and Matthew Ashworth.
The winner of the GOP primary will run against James Condit Jr of the Constitution Party and one of two Democrats - either Tom Poetter or Matthew Guyette.
This is the first time in four years that Boehner has invested in radio and television ads. In the 2010 primary, Boehner faced challenges from two opponents — Manfred Schreyer of Eaton and Tom McMasters of Huber Heights —and garnered 84.7 percent of the vote.
“Republicans have a big opportunity in 2014, and Congressman Boehner wants to make the most of it,” said Kara Hauck, spokeswoman for the Boehner campaign, on the media buy. “With no significant statewide primary to mobilize and engage voters in Ohio, he’s working just as hard as ever to build a strong foundation for victory up and down the ticket in November.”
Primary opponents of Boehner historically have not fared well. Since 2000 — the latest available primary election data for this race online at the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office — Boehner has faced opponents in four of seven primary elections. The closest primary election since 2000 was in 2012 when David Lewis received 16.2 percent of vote.
But this is the first election Boehner has had such staunch opposition from one political faction. Since January, the Alexandria, Va.-based Tea Party Leadership Fund has paid Winteregg’s campaign $5,000 in addition to spending nearly $315,000 in this race.
One of the issues on the minds of many Republicans is the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. House Republicans have voted more than 50 times to put a dent in the omnibus health care law, and a handful of those votes were for a complete repeal. The major parts of the law, signed by President Barack Obama in March 2010, went into effect on Jan. 1.
Ashworth said he would seek a “full repeal” of the Affordable Care Act and will not support anything that replaces it. “What we need is lawsuit reform and prescription drug reform along with free market solutions,” he said.
Gurr would not outright oppose a replacement for the health care law but said he didn’t want “another risky scheme that may or may not work.” He favors other changes, such as tort reform, which he said will lower costs. To trigger more cost savings, Congress “should clear a path for insurance companies to offer their policies across state lines,” he said.
“The biggest problem with the Affordable Care Act is that I believe our politicians should not play dice with the health and lives of millions of people,” Gurr said.
Boehner said the House has offered alternative ideas to the law, which he said “was forced upon the American people by a Democratic Congress.” He said Congress needs to “enact a step-by-step, common-sense approach” which begins by lowering health care costs.
“I was one of the first to warn that the law would drive up costs, ruin coverage and destroy jobs. I fought (then-House speaker) Nancy Pelosi and President Obama for months up to the fateful Obamacare vote, and I ultimately led every single House Republican in voting against it,” the speaker said. “The only solution is to rip this law out by its roots, and I am going to keep fighting it.”
Winteregg said he would move to repeal Obamacare and allow the free market to work.
“Millions of Americans are losing their health care under Obamacare, the opposite intended effect of the health law,” he said. “I’ve lived and worked overseas in France, I’ve seen socialized medicine first-hand and I can tell you that the system is a failure.”
Winteregg said his views are consistent with many tea party members, who believe government is too big.
“We need to return to a time when America sent doctors and teachers and small businessmen to Congress to roll up their sleeves to solve our nation’s problems,” he said.
Boehner, who is seeking his 13th two-year term, said his top priority is “listening and addressing the priorities of the families, individuals and the small businesses that make our area great.”
“It’s an uphill fight with Democrats controlling the White House and Senate, but real progress is being made,” he said
Gurr, a small-business owner in West Chester Twp., said the American political system needs a “restart.”
“Things are just not going well in Washington and it is affecting everyone in the nation. I remember growing up in Hamilton, Ohio, and all of the neighbors had pretty good jobs,” he said. “So many of those jobs are now gone. Our politicians just seem confused about what to do.”
Ashworth said his jobs plan “will create millions of jobs” and he has “the tenacity” to get policies he supports and introduces enacted. He said all federal contracts should only be awarded to “American firms employing American workers only.”
Ashworth said Congress should work toward FairTax — a proposal to reform the federal tax code by replacing all federal income taxes, payroll taxes and other taxes with a single national retail sales tax. But at the same time, he said, the federal government should impose “financial disincentives” on companies that outsource American jobs overseas.
This, said Ashworth, would “equalize the cost of labor between American and foreign labor markets.”
“American workers can no longer compete with their overseas counterpart because of the additional tax on their labor by the government,” Ashworth said. “Unless we equalize the cost of labor, American jobs will continue to leave the country.”
Winteregg accused Boehner of being “more concerned about preserving his job as speaker than voting consistently with the values of the district back home.”
“People often joke that D.C. has taxation without representation, but that’s really Ohio nowadays,” he said. “We need a voice that represents us here.”
Winteregg said moving “big government out of the people’s way” will generate jobs and get unemployed Ohioans back to work.
“If you look at the fracking boom that’s occurring in North Dakota, it’s happening because government got out of the way and let the free market work,” he said.
Boehner makes similar pronouncements about the ineffectiveness of government.
“If given the opportunity to serve again, I will keep working to put an end to the left’s failed policies and get big government out of the way … to get our country back on track,” he said.
Boehner advocated a number of moves to spur the economy, including exporting more American goods, increasing domestic energy production, developing a simpler tax code, improving education and skills training, and reducing government red tape.
But Gurr said jobs will not return “until Congress gets serious about challenging President Obama on taxes, spending and regulation.”
“To create private sector jobs we are going to have to stop sending our jobs and money overseas,” he said.
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