For schoolteacher J.D. Winteregg, his campaign to defeat John Boehner in the Ohio eighth district Republican primary in little more than six weeks is nothing short of a “chance to make history.”
While some conservative House Republicans tried unsuccessfully to unseat Boehner as speaker after the 2012 election, Winteregg, 32, is quietly sitting on one of the best opportunities to change the national GOP. The high school and college French teacher needs between 40,000 and 50,000 votes in the May 6 Ohio eighth district congressional primary, which is expected to draw about 85,000 Republican voters, to bump the Speaker out of his own re-election race six months before the 2014 midterms.
“I was eight years old when he was first elected to office in the House. [For a while] he sounded like me. The more power he got, the less conservative he got — to the point where now he’s just conceding every point to the president and it’s embarrassing,” Winteregg told The Daily Caller.
“He hardly votes so we’ve basically lost our vote in Congress,” said Winteregg, who is reaching across the aisle in his own district for support. “To Democrats I say, ‘Don’t you want to get rid of the most powerful Republican?'”
Despite Boehner’s claim in a Cincinnati Enquirer article that re-election for him is a lock, a recent poll conducted by a tea party PAC endorsing Winteregg found that Boehner has 51 percent support in his own district, but only 25 percent support when paired against any no-name challenger.
“People are fed up with the establishment. The one thing consistent with bad policy coming out of D.C. is the people creating the bad policy. The most common thing I hear going door to door is throw the bums out. That’s the national sentiment. Hold them accountable directly to us,” Winteregg said. “[Boehner’s district campaign] slogan is, ‘One of Us.’ We get these little booklets now talking about how he’s one of us. If you have to try that hard to convince people, maybe you’re not one of us.”
“The Republican Party right now acts like a union. You go in as a youngster, you spend enough time there you eventually become a leader. If you say anything bad about the party you’re a scab. That’s a union. For the rest of us Republicans, that’s the culture we despise.”
Winteregg started planning his run after the last presidential election and spent an entire year fighting for support against the theory that he had no chance of winning. A friendship with the son of the Dayton Tea Party president turned around his fortunes. Late last month, Winteregg was endorsed by the national Tea Party Leadership Fund PAC. Coupled with a win in a local tea party straw poll, Winteregg emerged as the leading challenger to Boehner in the race, ahead of two other Republicans.
Though he has currently raised a little “more than I make in a year,” his volunteer base recently swelled past its initial size of 50 to 100 loyal volunteers. “I’ve gotten calls from Michigan, Indiana. People saying they want to come down with their groups and bring their people with them.”
Winteregg’s campaign is also aided by an experienced national consulting firm and a new voter technology app called Canvasmate, which Winteregg’s friend, a roofing company owner, developed to help keep track of his clients. “We can use what the progressives do so well and we can do it for right,” he said.
As for Boehner, who served as House Majority Leader under former Speaker Dennis Hastert during a period in which Republicans had a majority in both houses of Congress and the White House but failed to enact fiscally conservative policy, Winteregg is not intimidated. The dual Master’s degree holder has called for Boehner to meet him at a live townhall in the district — a challenge to which Boehner has yet to respond.
“He’s going to ignore me. He’s not going to acknowledge I exist, which is what I would do if I was him,” Winteregg said. But Boehner’s already mobilized campaign sends a clear signal that Boehner is concerned. “I know he’s paying people to go door-to-door.”
“I’ve lived in his district for years. I’ve never seen him campaign. I’ve never seen a slogan. I’ve never heard of the amount of phone calls I’m hearing about. I get phone calls every day saying, ‘Hey I got a phone call from Boehner’s people saying who are you going to support?'”
“He has a house in the Westchester area. People don’t talk of him being there. When I hear talk of him being back it’s to meet with people who have money…I don’t know the last time hes come home and held a townhall here or interacted with people who aren’t heavy donors. He’s more concerned about leveraging his position of power. He spent 21 million dollars last time and ran unopposed. If he’s so responsible, it seems completely irresponsible to spend that much of the donors’ money if you’re running unopposed.. But he’s using it to shore up some loyalty if you will. It’s the kind of system that we’re sick of here and looking to eliminate.”
Particularly for fundraising, Winteregg is taking aim not only at Boehner’s role in his own district, but also his performance as House party leader.
“Obama is to Putin as Boehner is to Obama. Putin doesn’t fear Obama at all. Obama doesn’t fear Boehner. There’s no reason Obama would ever consider negotiating with Boehner because he’s conceded on everything. We’ve lost that leverage. I don’t know if he’s complicit or ignorant.”
“He said back in 2010 not one dime would go to funding Obamacare and he voted to fully fund it. He said we should fight on the debt ceiling then voted to suspend the debt ceiling until March, giving Obama a blank check. What incentive does he have to cut spending?”
Winteregg’s policy agenda includes term limits to make people more comfortable about how they’re represented in Washington — an issue that could be highlighted nationally by an abrupt end to Boehner’s term — and a blend of fiscal conservatism and moral values. “I’m 100 percent pro-life,” he said, adding that he strongly supports the Second Amendment and opposes illegal aliens being “suddenly entitled to this welfare system.”
“When they talk about the debt ceiling they ask, ‘Will you raise it?’ I say look at how it got here. We need to cut spending. We can find waste fraud and abuse everywhere. That will resonate with people because we’re all doing that [in our own lives]. The government is the only thing that’s not,” Winteregg said. “The fastest-growing place in America right now is Washington D.C. These people work for us and they’ve become independently wealthy?”
As a teacher, Winteregg has special ire reserved for federal school reforms, including the 2001 Bush administration policy that Boehner co-sponsored.
“You can’t address individual students’ needs when it’s centrally planned. Boehner was a co-sponsor of No Child Left Behind which has opened the door to Common Core. It takes a toll on the kids, a toll on the teachers,” the challenger declared. “You have a bunch of politicians making decisions in education. We need teachers making decisions on education. You get that when you diminish the role of the federal government.”