Wenstrup's upset 2nd District victory tied to grass roots campaign

Incumbent Republican Jean Schmidt defeated

CINCINNATI - Dr. Brad Wenstrup saw a full schedule of podiatry patients at Wellington Orthopedics Wednesday as though his daily routine wasn't going to change.

Nothing could have been further from the truth. Nothing will be the same over the next several months.

Why?

The podiatrist, Iraqi war veteran and businessman pulled the upset of the Ohio Primary Election Tuesday by defeating Incumbent Jean Schmidt to become the Republican nominee for Ohio's 2 nd U.S. Congressional District seat.

"You've got to love America," he told cheering supporters at the Eastgate Holiday Inn.  "You've got to love America."

Wenstrup has been bombarded with congratulatory calls and requests for media interviews since his stunning feat.  However, his patients came first on Wednesday.

"I still have to earn a living and I'm obligated to them," he said.  "You know, there's a thing called ‘abandonment' and you really don't want to do that."

Few people gave Wenstrup a chance in the race, since Schmidt has held the seat for seven years, reportedly carried a double-digit lead in polls and outspent him two-two-one.  She's also survived several tight races in the past.

Asked if he thought Schmidt had become complacent, Wenstrup said he didn't think that was the case.

"She was campaigning in the same places I was most of the time, unless she was in Washington," he said.  "So, I don't know if it was complacency or just that people were ready for a change."

"I think there is a strong anti-incumbent mood in the country," he added.  "Polls have shown that and that was probably part of it.  Maybe polls made her think she had it.  I don't know, but we kept working until the very last minute."

The Wenstrup campaign strategy was organize a grass roots effort to take his message to all corners of the sprawling district, which was recently redrawn through redistricting.

"It wasn't a lot of money and it wasn't a lot of media exposure, per se, but it was me getting out," he said.  "Every night I was somewhere shaking hands, sitting down with people, letting them get to know me, know my background, what I'm about and what they're about."

One campaign commercial was critical of Schmidt's greeting of President Obama as he entered the capitol for the 2012 State of the Union speech.  She shook his hand and kissed him on the cheek.

The advertisement made it seem Schmidt was a Democrat and staunchly supported the president's policies.

Wenstrup said he was campaigning at the time and didn't see the moment live, but quickly heard about it.

"My telephone and my e-mails started lighting up, so we knew it was a sensitive issue and people didn't care for it," he said.

Looking ahead, Wenstrup said he's going to continue telling people that health care, the economy and military issues impact their daily lives.

"My message is I come to Washington with experience – non-political experience – but it pertains to everything that's in politics," he said. 

He pointed out that he ran his own practice for 12-years before joining Wellington, where he has been Operations Chairman and served on the Executive Committee.   He noted that he spent 14-years in the military with a tour in Iraq in 2005-2006.

"Very few people in Washington have those experiences, yet they deal with those types of situations all the time," he said.

Schmidt wasn't available for comment Wednesday, but issued a release Tuesday night congratulating Wenstrup and thanking everyone who supported her as the first woman elected to represent southern Ohio in Congress.

"We are all Republicans and we have to move forward in November," she wrote.  "I will continue to work hard through the end of this year to represent the interests and the conservative values of the people of Southern Ohio.  I will continue to be their strong voice in our nation's capital."

Wenstrup will meet William Miller of Waverly, Ohio, in the General Election, unless Democratic party officials recruit a different candidate.

Meanwhile, the civic group COAST alleged in a release Wednesday that Schmidt ended the election with more than $200,000 in the bank, and in January and February, she paid her $50,000 of old debt from her campaign fund, rather than invest it in the race.

"Yes, $250,000 available to rally the troops and fend off this challenge," the release stated.  "Yes, she could have won if she had just…campaigned."

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