It’s unclear when House Speaker John Boehner will leave his Congressional post but that hasn’t stopped a handful of area politicians from jumping in the race for his seat.
Plans for Boehner to retire at the end of this month are on hold as Republicans struggle to find a representative who’s willing to take on the Speaker job. The 65-year-old announced last week he will lead the House until a new leader is selected.
Meanwhile, Republican leaders are working to woo Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis) into running.
“If that doesn’t happen, it could really drag out,” Bryan Marshall, a political science professor at Miami University, said of Boehner’s remaining time in office.
That’s left Ohio voters and politicians in limbo as they wait for a definitive end date for Boehner's term before they can head to the polls to elect a new representative.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich hasn’t set a date for the special election that must happen for voters to hire Boehner’s successor. He won’t until Boehner firms up when he’ll leave, a spokesman told WCPO Insider last week.
“Need a resignation date before announcing a special election,” Jim Lynch, a spokesman for Kasich’s office, wrote in an email.
But candidates vying for Boehner’s seat are still pressing on with their campaigns.
“Speaker Boehner announced his intentions for retirement – that hasn’t changed,” Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds, a Republican, said. Reynolds declared his candidacy earlier this month. “Realizing there will be a vacancy down the road, I’m moving forward to talk to all of the folks across the district.”
Butler County has benefited from Boehner's representation since he was elected to Congressional District 8 in 1991. His vacant seat, however, gives other counties a chance to prop up a candidate for the first time in years. Boehner is a West Chester Township resident, but five Ohio counties are represented in the district.
Enter Ohio candidates Sen. Bill Beagle (R-Tipp City) and J.D. Winteregg, of Troy, both from outside Butler County.
Winteregg, who challenged Boehner in last year’s election, argues other counties have been neglected during Boehner’s reign. Butler County, which boasts fast-growing suburbs with relatively quick commutes to Cincinnati, contrasts with the other counties in the district, which have a more rural and agricultural personality.
“He’s never here in our district,” Winteregg said of Boehner. “He hasn’t cared to reach out.”
But Butler County Republican leaders will fight to keep their longstanding stronghold over the seat. Of the 450,000 voters living in the district and registered to vote in this year’s election, more than half live in Butler County.
“I think it’s important for Butler County to have that representation … especially in light of the number of constituents that are in the county,” said Ohio Rep. Tim Derickson (R-Hanover Twp.). Derickson jumped into the race Tuesday morning.
Butler County Republicans are waiting for Boehner’s official retirement date before endorsing any candidates, Chairman Todd Hall said Tuesday. But he’s sure to support someone from Butler County, he said.
“Please understand that virtually half of the residents in the 8th Congressional District live in Butler County,” Hall said in an email. “I sincerely hope to help secure a Butler County Republican to the seat.”
It’s likely someone with a similar “voice” and agenda will end up in Boehner’s seat once it opens up, Marshall said.
“I think it will be a more mainline Republican that will end up in that seat,” Marshall said.
Whoever it is – don’t expect them to wield as much power for Southwest Ohio as the outgoing Speaker.
“The Speaker’s position is an incredibly powerful position,” Marshall said. “Boehner is stepping down; we’re going to have a brand new rank-and-file member, almost certainly a Republican, who will be the very lowest in seniority.”