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0000017a-3b40-d913-abfe-bf44a4f90000Howard Wilkinson joined the WVXU news team as the politics reporter and columnist in April 2012 , after 30 years of covering local, state and national politics for The Cincinnati Enquirer. On this page, you will find his weekly column, Politically Speaking; the Monday morning political chats with News Director Maryanne Zeleznik and other news coverage by Wilkinson. A native of Dayton, Ohio, Wilkinson has covered every Ohio gubernatorial race since 1974, as well as 16 presidential nominating conventions. Along with politics, Wilkinson also covered the 2001 Cincinnati race riots, the Lucasville prison riot in 1993, the Air Canada plane crash at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in 1983, and the 1997 Ohio River flooding. And, given his passion for baseball, you might even find some stories about the Cincinnati Reds here from time to time.

Rugby Scrum Of 15 GOP "Outsiders" Battle To Replace Boehner

For nearly a quarter of a century, voters in the 8th Congressional District of Ohio sent Republican John Boehner back to the U.S. House by huge margins every two years.

It gave Boehner the kind of clout that allowed him to become Speaker of the House in January, 2010.

All of that ended last fall, when the West Chester Republican was pushed into resignation by a rebellious House GOP caucus, many of whom thought he was too eager to compromise with the Democrat in the White House.

And now, with 15 Republican candidates running in next week’s special primary election for the former speaker’s seat, Boehner has become a footnote, a person whose name is barely spoken by the contestants in a jam-packed GOP primary.

Each and every one of the 15 Republicans trying to replace Boehner, the ultimate insider, is trying to do it by running as an Washington outsider.

The sprawling 8th District includes all of Butler, Preble, Miami, Darke and Clark counties, along with part of Mercer County; and is one of the most reliably Republican districts in the state.

The population center is in the south end of the district, in Butler County, and it is a district of burgeoning suburban communities, blue-collar cities, and great stretches of some of Ohio’s most fertile farm lands.

An indication of just how Republican this district is can be seen in the fact that 15 Republicans filed for the special primary, while only one Democrat bothered to run – Corey Foister of West Chester, who is 25 years old, the minimum age for a member of the U.S. House. And James J. Condit Jr., who doesn’t live in the district (it’s not a requirement for House candidates), is running as the Green Party candidate. 

So, in fact, there are 17 candidates vying for Boehner’s seat.

At least four of the 15 Republican candidates have put together large enough campaign funds to air TV and radio ads throughout the district; and they have nearly all taken up the “Washington outsider” theme.

Jim Spurlino, a first-time candidate who is in the concrete and construction materials business, bills himself as the “true conservative outsider”  in the race; and says in his radio ads that “like you, I’m angry” at what is going on in Washington.

Spurlino points the finger at three opponents in particular as professional politicians – State Rep. Tim Derickson of Hanover Township, State Sen. Bill Beagle of Tipp City, and Warren Davidson of Troy.

Davidson’s only brush with elected office was a stint as a township trustee in Miami County, but he has some big-time conservative political power behind him, including the Club For Growth and FreedomWorks, which helped fuel the fire to push Boehner out. And U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, who chaired the House Freedom Caucus, which pushed for Boehner to resign, has endorsed Davidson.

Derickson makes no bones about the fact that there are plenty of party regulars backing his candidacy – his website lists 150 current and former elected officials and “local party leaders” who have endorsed him. But he also has what might be the most striking TV adof the campaign; and it is certainly a "Washington outsider" ad.

Derickson, whose family was in the dairy farming business for three generations, is shown in his overalls shoveling the cow manure that he’s says he’s tired of in Washington.

And Beagle insists in his ads that he’s not a career politician and will “fix Washington.”

Monday, three GOP candidates who have little campaign money - Kevin F. White, Scott George and J.D. Winteregg - released a joint statement saying "outsider groups" have spent $1.5 million promoting Davidson, Derickson and Beagle. 

And they offered themselves as alternatives to "the establishment, special interest-supported candidates in this race." 

Clearly, this is an election where even a sight-seeing trip to Washington could get you branded as an “inside-the-Beltway” politician.

Why this election is different:

Voters will vote twice in the 8th Congressional District race.

Federal election law requires a special primary election and a special general election to fill the remainder of Boehner’s term, which ends Jan. 3, 2017.

The Republican ballots on March 15 will show two races for the 8th Ohio Congressional District – one for the special primary election and one for a full two-year term to be decided in November.

On June 7, the winners of the special general election will face off for the remainder of Boehner’s term.

On Nov. 8, the general election for a two-year term will be held.

It is possible, but not likely, that two different Republicans could win the special primary and the regular primary on March 15.

And with 15 candidates running, the winning candidate’s (or candidates’) vote total could well be nowhere near a majority.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted produced a short video explaining how the 8th District election works to voters. You can watch it here.

Who are the Republican candidates?

Matthew Ashworth, Hamilton, in digital mortgage business:

On the issues: Ashworth favors a “fair tax” – a single-rate retail sales tax collected at the final point of purchase of new goods and services or personal consumption. “It’s about fairness, simplicity and de-fanging a government agency that is being used as a political weapon.”

Campaign website:

Scott George, Troy, human resources and learning consultant.

On the issues: “I’m frustrated that the voice of the people is not being heard in Washington.” On immigration: “We do have people coming over that border for a better life, but we also have criminals coming over. We can’t have unbridled compassion.”

Campaign Facebook page

J.D. Winteregg, Troy, works in grain elevator.

On the issues: The 34-year-old Republican said he ran against John Boehner in the 2014 GOP primary “because he was burning my generation by voting for Obamacare. I am passionate, a fighter. I went up against the third most powerful man in the world.”

Campaign website:

Eric J. Haemmerle, government teacher, West Chester.

On the issues: “National security is number one. The real job of the American government is to protect the American people and provide national security. If we are to fight ISIS effectively, we have to go after their money sources.”

Campaign website:

Kevin F. White, New Carlisle, former airline pilot and retired from U.S. Air Force Reserves.

On the issues: “There is nothing more important than our national security and we can only fund our national security if the economy is strong…this president kills the people we should be capturing and extracting information from…there should be no ground war in Syria; it’s a hornet’s nest.”

Campaign website:

Terri King, Middletown, attorney, former assistant Butler County prosecutor.

On the issues: Supports a 10 percent flat tax “across the board.” She said she not only supports building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico but one between the U.S. and Canada as well. Canada, she says, is taking in Islamic extremists “who want Sharia law in the U.S. and can cross into our country form Canada.”

Campaign website:

John W. Robbins, Monroe, retired steelworker and former health department employee.

On the issues: “If you have income, you pay 10 percent taxes. Period. And this budget needs to be brought under control.” He said “any foreigner can walk into this country. Yes, I want a wall built between us and Mexico.”

Campaign website: None

Edward R. Meer, West Chester, a press operator.

On the issues: On dealing with ISIS, he said “we can’t send in ground troops to deal with Islamic extremists, because we just end up with countries hating us. We need to spend in special forces to deal with this.” On replacement of the Brent Spence Bridge, Meer said he favors a toll to help fund the project.

Campaign website: None, but he has a YouTube videowhere he talks about his campaign.

Bill Beagle, Tipp City, state senator.

On the issues: “We need to shore up our financial resources. Ohio has had tax cuts; and I have supported that.” On national security, Beagle said “the biggest issue we have now is fighting radical Islam and ISIS. I can’t rule out the use of boots on the ground.”

Campaign website:

George S. Wooley, Troy, investment property manager

On the issues: “The lack of jobs in this district is the most important issue. We have to be competitive with the other 50 states. I’m a strong right-to-work person.” On immigration, Wooley said “we have to stop immigration from all enemy countries.”

Facebook page: George Wooley for US Congress

Timothy S. Dickerson, Hanover Township, former state representative.

On the issues: “A good paying job is the remedy for so many ills in this country. And it will help strengthen the family unit as we once knew it.” On the threat of terrorism: “You can’t send the FBI to deal with threats outside our borders. We should be fighting that battle on their land, not ours.”

Campaign website:

Joseph Matvey, West Chester, an accountant.

On the issues: “We are the victims of unfair trade policies right here in this district. Look at AK Steel – faced with foreign countries dumping low-cost steel into our economy.” He accuses President Obama of trying to falsely link domestic terrorist attacks to “proper gun ownership.” He said he will “support the complete preservation of the rights of Americans under the Second Amendment without exception.”


Jim Spurlino, Centerville, owner of Spurlino Materials, a concrete company.

On the issues: “The economy and jobs are the most important issues. The federal government told us that the recession ended in 2010. That’s simply not true. This is not an economy that is recovering; it is an economy that is barely moving.”

Campaign website:

Michael Smith, Germantown, a former bank loan officer.

On the issues: “Enough is enough, which is why I have turned to politics, to try to bring the power back to the people.” He says he believes “voters should be able to vote on laws directly.”

Campaign website:

Warren Davidson, Troy, former Army Ranger, businessman.

On the issues: “Fix the VA (Veterans Administration). Please, fix the VA. Everybody talks about it, but nothing ever happens. This should be a bipartisan issue.” On the war on terror: “Sept. 11, 2001 showed that we cannot allow sanctuaries for jihadists. We can and must destroy them without spending another $4 trillion occupying and rebuilding the Middle East.”

Campaign website:

Howard Wilkinson is in his 50th year of covering politics on the local, state and national levels.