House races

Tea Party candidate wins primary for Boehner’s old seat

Greg Nash

The same anti-establishment conservative forces that pushed former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) out of office last fall propelled his expected replacement to victory on Tuesday.

Businessman Warren Davidson won the GOP primary for the district Boehner represented in the House for a quarter-century. 

The Club for Growth, an influential conservative group, spent more than $1 million on Davidson’s behalf over the course of the crowded 15-way GOP primary.

{mosads}An endorsement from fellow Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, who chairs the House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative lawmakers that led the push to oust Boehner, further boosted Davidson’s campaign.

Davidson will be the odds-on favorite to win the special general election on June 7 in the reliably Republican district. The seat has been vacant since Boehner’s resignation at the end of October.

Boehner stayed out of the primary and did not offer any endorsement. But in a statement after the result, he expressed support for his successor.

“I was privileged and blessed to represent the people of the 8th District in the U.S. House for nearly a quarter-century. My friends, neighbors and former constituents have chosen someone to be on the ballot in June and November who can be counted on to continue the fight for a smaller, less costly, more accountable federal government,” Boehner said.

Most of the candidates had never held elected office and tried to present themselves as Washington outsiders in contrast to the previous incumbent who had become the ultimate insider.

Only two other candidates cracked double digits by the time The Associated Press projected Davidson won the primary.

State Sen. Bill Beagle, who had been endorsed by defense hawk Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), and state Rep. Tim Derickson, who was supported by the Right Way Initiative, were the other two best-funded candidates in the race.

Derickson produced perhaps the most memorable campaign ad of the primary. The third-generation dairy farmer is shown shoveling cow manure, which is meant to represent the product of “Washington politicians,” over the course of the advertisement. It concludes with Derickson declaring that he’s “fed up with their bull—-!” — which is censored by a cow’s moo. 

The success of a Tea Party-affiliated Republican to replace the former Speaker, who had become the face of the GOP establishment, bears resemblance to another leadership shake-up that preceded Boehner’s departure.

Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who lost his 2014 primary, was similarly replaced by a conservative upstart. His successor, Dave Brat, quickly aligned himself with members of the Freedom Caucus upon his arrival to Capitol Hill.

“What a win for the grassroots that the newest member of the House Freedom Caucus comes from John Boehner’s old seat,” Adam Brandon, chairman of the Tea Party-affiliated FreedomWorks PAC, said in a statement.

A spokesman for Boehner downplayed any suggestion that Tuesday’s results amounted to a rejection of the former Speaker’s legacy.

“Mr. Davidson won not by trashing John Boehner or the Boehner legacy, but by articulating positive conservative solutions to the challenges facing our country. Speaker Boehner appreciates that, and congratulates him on the win,” Boehner spokesman David Schnittger said.

Davidson will face Democrat Corey Foister, a 25-year-old who just meets the minimum age to serve as a House member, in June’s special election.

The winner of the June election will serve out the rest of Boehner’s term through the end of this year. Another election will be held in November to serve in the next session of Congress, which starts in January 2017.

Updated at 11:07 p.m.

Tags Boehner Eric Cantor John Boehner

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