One of the men with sights set on replacing Speaker of the House John Boehner in Congress is upset with the Republican Party in the 8th Congressional District’s largest county.
Todd Hall and Chris Wunnenberg, the Butler County Republican Party’s executive chairman and Central Committee chairman, respectively, co-authored a letter to its membership on Oct. 5 stating, “It is imperative that we keep our advantage by having our next representative come from our county.”
J.D. Winteregg, who lost to Boehner in the 2014 primary and has filed to run for Congress in 2016, said he is “greatly disappointed” in the letter and called it “blatantly divisive.”
“Where they should be encouraging their members to listen to the diverse voices within the party that are present throughout the district, they’ve instead chosen to try to unfairly sway the endorsement process,” Winteregg said. “In effect, they’re encouraging their members — and current and future candidates from within Butler County — to ignore the other counties within the district.”
Hall said with almost half of the district’s voters in Butler County, and the fact that the district’s congressmen have been from Butler County for decades, “we obviously wish to keep this tradition” and offers “no apologies” for that.
“It is the our hope that we can unite behind one candidate for endorsement,” said Hall of the Butler County Republican Party. “There may be those who have their own agenda, and that is their prerogative. Leadership will not endorse or control this vote.”
The letter asks Butler County Republicans for their “support in an effort to unite behind one Butler County Republican” when the party conducts its endorsement meeting. The county GOP has for years asked candidates in contested Republican primary races if they would withdraw from the race if the party endorses one candidate.
There are an estimated 723,000 residents who live in the state’s 8th Congressional District, and approximately half reside in Butler County. And since the congressional districts were realigned following the 1970 Census, all in Ohio’s 8th District have been from Butler County.
Winteregg, a former high school French teacher, is one of four candidates who have publicly declared they will seek to replace Boehner, a West Chester Twp. Republican, as the district’s congressman. Boehner announced in September he would step down from Congress at the end of October.
Because of the split among Republicans in Congress, that resignation date is on hold.
In what Winteregg calls an attempt to “unfairly sway the endorsement process,” the Tea Party-backed Republican said the GOP leadership has “placed their priorities in preservation of power over representation of the people” — and this letter illustrates that idea.
“This is a tactic one would expect from (President Barack) Obama’s people, not our own,” he said. “I’ve met many people within Butler County — and within the party apparatus — who would never condone this rhetoric. People are sick and tired of the leadership within the party playing political games. It’s time to end this now.”
Hall said Winteregg is attempting to “spin or twist” the Butler County’s goal for unity to score “political points.”
“Every Butler County Republican I’ve talked to about this supports an endorsement and agrees that our party should strive to keep our representation at home,” Hall said. “That is the point of the letter.”
Others who have officially announced their candidacy for the congressional seat once Boehner resigns include Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds, Sen. Bill Beagle, R-Tipp City, and Miami County resident Scott George.
In response to the Butler County GOP’s letter, Beagle said if elected to Congress, he would serve all the counties in the 8th Congressional district, not just those in his home county. Already, Beagle said he is campaigning in the counties that make up the 8th district. That includes all of Butler, Clark, Darke, Miami, Preble counties and part of Mercer County.
Reynolds said in an interview with the Journal-News last week, and not in response to this letter, that it’s natural to want to have Butler County be the home of the district’s next congressman since it’s the largest county in the district.
But Reynolds said “it’s important for me to stress” he would represent the entire district. Before he made his announcement last Wednesday, he was in Clark County and began to travel the district after the announcement.