Longtime incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Turner argues that he has built up the political clout and expertise in Congress that are crucial to protecting and expanding jobs at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and elsewhere.
“My work for the community — Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, producing jobs, being a part of the economic development team of this community — it’s been incredibly important for what we’ve accomplished in the past several years and there is more work to be done,” Turner said when asked why voters should back him.
Turner, who is seeking his 10th consecutive term in Congress, has made Wright-Patt a focus of his work. His challenger, Democrat Desiree Tims, said she has yet to tour the base.
“When I was first elected, Wright-Patterson A.F.B. had 19,000 jobs inside the fence. Today it has 30,000 jobs inside the fence. We’re going to go to 34,000 jobs from the missions that we’ve just already achieved and there is still greater opportunity for growth, including opportunities with Space Force,” Turner said in an interview in the lobby of the Schuster Performing Arts Center where his downtown condo is located.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio Congressional delegation is pushing Dayton as the ideal location for the U.S. Space Command headquarters.
Turner serves on the House Intelligence and Armed Services committees — key assignments that he said help him protect and expand Wright-Patt and focus on national security issues. He announced he is seeking a leadership post on the Armed Services Committee.
Dayton Development Coalition President Jeff Hoagland said: “Congressman Turner has been one of the top advocates for the Air Force and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and that’s been the case since I’ve been at the coalition. He lives and breathes Wright-Patt A.F.B. and that’s something this region needs.”
Turner has the power of incumbency and a long track record of winning reelection by on average nearly 25 percentage points. The district leans Republican.
Tims outraised Turner in the second quarter but trails him for the cycle. According to ProPublica, Turner has raised $1.1 million, including 35.5% from PACs, while Tims raised $610,000, including 11.9% from PACs.
It’s an election year unlike any other in recent memory — Ohioans are dealing with a global pandemic, high unemployment, hyper partisan politics and sustained calls for racial justice.
Turner did not participate in any Black Lives Matters protests and declined to elaborate why. He supports banning police use of chokeholds but opposes defunding police, removing officer immunity or hampering officers' abilities to disperse crowds during violent protests. When asked if he supports creation of a national database of police officer disciplinary records and officer-involved shootings, Turner said he hasn’t seen any proposal that he’d support that would accomplish that.
When it comes to firearms regulations, Turner opposes mandating background checks for private party sales, supports a ban on military-style weapons and favors laws that provide a process for removing firearms from people who are mentally unstable. As Dayton mayor, he supported the Clinton assault weapons ban, which grandfathered in existing owners but prohibited new sales.
Turner opposes increasing the federal minimum wage, which is $7.25 an hour and hasn’t been raised since 2009.
“I do not believe we need to increase the minimum age at this time. We need to put people back to work,” he said.
Turner supports Republican President Donald Trump for re-election, saying Trump committed to rebuilding the military after years of funding restrictions that led to furloughs at Wright-Patt.
“That reinvestment is both making our nation safer and is resulting in greater opportunities for Wright-Patt,” Turner said.
Turner has come under scrutiny for spending $90,000 over the past three-and-a-half years out of his campaign account on meals and lodging — an amount that exceeds what other long-time Ohio incumbents have spent.
Members of Congress are allowed to use campaign money for campaign and official business. Turner said that he spent campaign money to reach out to other members of Congress, which he argues “is essential to advocate and promote the community and secure many of the projects that I’ve worked on at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.”
Dayton Daily News research shows that since 2017, Turner has taken 21 foreign trips at a cost of $89,011 to American taxpayers and has taken four trips, including three international treks, funded by outside groups. Travel paid by the groups totaled $33,715.
Turner said the travel benefits the Miami Valley and the country.
“My responsibilities include national security and intelligence that relate not just to the country but also benefit our community in that I’m working with the top leaders of decision making in (the Department of Defense), and in policy and in national security,” said Turner, who serves in leadership roles in the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, which brings together legislators from member countries.
NATO is a far cry from Turner’s entry into elective office. In 1993, Turner decided to run for Dayton mayor after he found City Hall to be an impediment to getting things done. In a heavily Democratic city, Turner defeated Democrat Clay Dixon, winning by 434 votes out of 44,104 ballots cast.
Serving eight years as mayor, Turner said he saved downtown with redevelopment projects, including a minor league baseball stadium, a performing arts center and a revamped riverfront park.
Turner lost his bid for a third term in November 2001. The next year, Turner ran for the Congressional seat long-held by Democrat Tony Hall, who left for a United Nations appointment.
Turner aims to draw a sharp contrast between his lengthy career and Tims as a newcomer.
“It’s important that the community knows me and they know my work and my accomplishments and they know there is more to do. The difference between my background, my experience and my accomplishments and the complete lack of any — even community service locally — by my opponent is extreme,” he said.
Family: Twice divorced, two adult daughters.
Education: Belmont High School; bachelor’s degree, Ohio Northern University; juris doctor, Case Western Reserve University; MBA, University of Dayton.
Political Experience: Dayton mayor, 1994-2001; U.S. House of Representatives, 2003-current.
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