The 15 Republican candidates running to replace retired House Speaker John Boehner sound similar themes on issues, but there are important differences in outlook, experience and the specific ideas they say they would take to Washington, D.C.
The 8th District primary is probably the hottest local race — a chance to replace a man who spent 25 years in Congress in a district that is so dominated by Republican voters that whichever of Republican candidates wins on March 15 is likely to win the seat.
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All but three of the candidates have never held public office. Several own businesses or are self-employed.
As a group they are highly critical of President Barack Obama.
They think taxes are too high and many are proponents of replacing the current income and corporate tax system with versions of the “Fair Tax,” which is a national sales tax, or the “Flat Tax,” which assesses the same percentage of taxation to everyone regardless of income.
Most of the candidates argue that tax cuts and reducing government regulations are the best ways to improve the economy and create jobs.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Education are generally reviled by most of these candidates and several want to repeal Dodd-Frank, the financial regulations that Congress approved in the wake of the Great Recession.
The candidates say more needs to be done to protect gun rights and they call for cutting off the flow of illegal immigrants. A few would specifically target Muslims and at least two support a border fence with Canada as well as Mexico.
Some want to eliminate the minimum wage. Many called for cuts to food stamps and other social welfare programs.
Each of the Republican candidates believes he or she is the one to help fix a Washington they see as dysfunctional.
“I kind of blame both parties over the years,” said State Rep. Tim Derickson, R-Hanover Twp. “Those in Congress need to be making some hard decisions — what’s right and what’s not right — based on being engaged back home in their districts. I do believe what’s happened is that they’ve yielded so much of their decision-making to the executive branch.”
Democrat Cory Foister, of Fairfield, and Green Party candidate Jim Condit Jr., of Cincinnati, have no primary opponents and so are not included in this story. See more about them in our online 8th District voter guide. Candidates in contested primaries also answer questions in our Dayton-Springfield-Middletown region online voter guide.
Republicans in the 8th District race are: Matthew Ashworth of Liberty Twp., State Sen. Bill Beagle, R-Tipp City; Warren Davidson of Troy, Derickson, Scott George of Monroe Twp. in Miami County, Eric Haemmerle of West Chester Twp., Terri King of Middletown, Joseph Matvey of West Chester Twp., Edward Meer of West Chester Twp., John Robbins of Monroe, Michael Smith of Germantown, James Spurlino of Washington Twp., Kevin White of New Carlisle, J.D. Winteregg of Troy, and George Wooley of Troy.
According to campaign finance reports filed last week with the Federal Elections Commission, these are the candidates with the most money on hand for the remainder of the campaign:
* Davidson: $282K
* Beagle: $124K
* Derickson: $75K
* Spurlino: $70K
* White: $13K
This newspaper asked the candidates to weigh in on jobs and the economy, taxes, the federal budget deficit, immigration and national security. In wide-ranging comments some candidates focused on different issues more than others and several suggested looking at their websites for more details of their positions.
Here’s a sampling of where they stand:
Economy and jobs
Government regulations and taxes make it too hard for businesses in the United States, the candidates say, and they called for reductions in both.
Spurlino said bringing companies back to the United States starts with halting the “burdensome policies,” including EPA regulations, that he said stop “businesses from investing.”
“It creates uncertainty in the economy, and when there’s uncertainty people aren’t going to invest, people aren’t going to expand,” Spurlino said.
Davidson said government should stay out of the way and let businesses create jobs. “We need to have more confidence in the private sector and less confidence in government officials,” he said.
Both Derickson and Spurlino said bureaucrats shouldn’t be making regulations.
“I think if you bring that back to the folks who actually get elected I think they’ll be a little more sensitive and inclined to help create an environment that’s more inviting (to businesses),” Derickson said.
Smith said he would always poll the district’s voters before deciding on any issue and he will vote the way the district wants.
Winteregg would consider eliminating or reducing the power of both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). He said the Department of Homeland Security should be abolished and its duties shifted to the Department of Defense.
Both Beagle and Winteregg decried burdensome regulations on agriculture industries
Robbins suggests placing stronger regulations on imports coming into the country and Haemmerle would levy a higher tax on companies leaving the country.
“And if they choose to take their jobs overseas they need to be punished for that,” Haemmerle said.
Matvey would modify trade agreements “so we have a fair environment out in the business world.”
Davidson, Winteregg and George called for a repeal of the Dodd-Frank law, which was supposed to rein in Wall Street. Each said the law makes it too hard for community banks to lend.
Davidson, Beagle, Spurlino, Winteregg, White, George, Wooley and Smith all denounced the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as Obamacare.
“I would advocate a free market solution that is driven off of markets,” said Davidson.
Beagle suggests using vouchers for people to buy insurance in the open market but if that got too expensive for the government to fund “we may have to make some difficult choices.”
Wooley blames the ACA for increasing the cost of health care.
“When I was a child I can remember the times when doctors made house calls,” said Wooley. “You would hear about a farmer paying the doctor a chicken to treat his wife. What happened to those days.”
George said the U.S. Constitution does not allow the government to be involved in health care and eventually the government should stop providing Medicare.
Winteregg and Wooley suggested eliminating the minimum wage.
“I believe a businessman should be able to pay his worker whatever he wants to pay him,” said Wooley. “We can’t compete with the Chinese and other countries — Mexico — that are working for fraction of (American wages), a quarter of that.”
Taxes and federal budget deficit
Elimination or reduction in corporate and income taxes is popular with this group and they all say the deficit needs to be brought under control through cuts, some advocating deeper cuts than others.
Flat tax supporters include Davidson, Spurlino, Robbins and King.
Ashworth supports the Fair Tax, while Winteregg, Wooley and George support both a Fair Tax and a version of the Flat Tax.
Derickson and Matvey said reducing the corporate tax rate would draw back companies that have left the country.
“It has to be financially advantageous to build, to create, to invent, to grow businesses here,” Derickson said.
Beagle said the flat tax may sound appealing to some but it would also broaden the tax base, which conflicts with a goal of not raising taxes. Ideally any reform would be revenue neutral, he said.
Congress has been unwilling to pass comprehensive tax reform so Beagle said the best path might be to propose “bite-sized” reforms. He said it will involve give and take, just as Ohio raised some taxes and lowered others in the past few years.
“As someone who has gotten things done in Columbus I’m hopeful there are ways to get things done (in Congress),” Beagle said.
The candidates call for budget cuts, and in some cases elimination of entire departments.
“What are we doing about the budget deficit now? We pretend it doesn’t exist,” Davidson said. “The way to balance the budget is to grow the economy.”
White wants a 1 percent acrosss the board cut, and Robbins calls for a 1 percent decrease in spending until revenues match expenditures.
Spurlino would eliminate the National Labor Relations Board, which he said has lived beyond its “usefulness.”
The U.S. Department of Education, a favorite target of conservatives, would be eliminated by Spurlino, Derickson, Robbins, Winteregg and Wooley.
“I appreciate state-level education, but I’m not a big fan of curriculum and standards coming down from the federal government,” Derickson said. ” I’m not convinced that’s the place for education.”
The IRS would be eliminated by Ashworth, George, and Wintergg and cut by Wooley.
Davidson said government relief programs trap people in poverty and he noted that people have turned down full-time jobs paying $10 or $11 an hour at his companies because they feared it would cause them to lose some of their federal benefits.
Winteregg would eliminate food stamps, saying his tax plan would make them unnecessary because low-income people would be given a check that puts them at the federal poverty level. Churches could take over helping people with food and other social service needs, he said.
White would withdraw government assistance from individuals who fail a drug test, even if they have children. They need to be “held accountable,” he said.
A balanced budget amendment is supported by Beagle, Derickson , Davidson, King and White.
“I think the deficit is one of our biggest issues. The interest on our debt,” Beagle said. “We are required to have a balanced budget in Ohio. That has forced the government to make difficult choices.”
Immigration and national security
Immigration is one of the hot issues for these candidates.
Beagle said it isn’t practical to deport everyone who is here illegally but he resists the idea of granting amnesty. He said he supports a secure border and a making it more efficient for people to legally come to the United States so they don’t resort to doing it illegally.
Davidson would no longer allow babies born in the U.S. to be citizens unless one parent is a citizen.
George wants to stop all immigration, including from Canada, until the borders are secured. He said Muslims,or anyone else not willing to “assimilate” shouldn’t be allowed to come here. King says no Syrians or Muslims should be permitted to come to the country. She also wants an end to work visas.
“There are no jobs,” said King. “Most jobs we have are part-time; people can’t find work, and you’ve got people coming here not only from Mexico but other foreign countries on the H-1 visas. A lot of them I wouldn’t bring here because they are Islamic or whatever because they’ve got a lot of engineering degrees.”
Spurlino said he would enforce or change the existing laws on the books and build a wall that would help with national security, stifle illegal immigration and reduce the flow of drugs coming in through from Mexico.
Derickson agreed with Spurlino that more enforcement of existing laws is needed. He illegal immigrants and those staying in the country on expired visas should be deported.
“By whatever means are necessary, we need to secure these borders,” Derickson said.
The candidates differed on what the U.S. should do to fight ISIS but several blamed its rise on President Obama.
Derickson said terrorism, both domestic and foreign, is something that needs to be addressed with military force.
Meer said there needs to be better sharing of information among agencies and departments.
Davidson and Winteregg called for special operations forces working with Middle Eastern allies. Beagle said a comprehensive strategy led by the military and involving American allies is needed, and he wouldn’t rule out sending ground forces to Syria.
White would send at least 10,000 troops to Iraq. Smith said ISIS is a threat, but he thinks troops abroad should be brought home and the money spent on U.S. domestic problems.
Derickson proposes taking the fight to the terrorists’ base, even if that means American troops on the ground.
“I’d much rather take the fight to their homeland, wherever that might be – Syria, Middle East in general – versus having that fight here in our country,” he said.
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