Succeeding Boehner: What We Know

Sept. 29, 2015 — Much speculation is surrounding Speaker John Boehner’s impending resignation, but what facts are confirmed? Several House members are already testing their viability in potential races for Majority Leader or Whip because, at this time, it appears Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA-23) will run for, and be elected, Speaker.

Boehner will resign the speakership and his OH-8 House seat on Oct. 30. His decision to leave the leadership and congressional position he has held since first winning in 1990, after serving three terms in the Ohio state legislature, is obviously motivated by many factors.

The resignation announcement, however, comes just days after reports surfaced that Democrats were prepared to “save” Boehner in a vote whether to continue his speakership. Since Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC-11) had filed a motion to vacate the chair, a vote would be taken. The Democrats, either delivering the required number of votes to ensure a Boehner win or, more likely, abstaining so that the Speaker’s plurality would become a majority. Such an outcome would have realistically doomed him, leaving him virtually powerless.

In his last election for Speaker at the beginning of this term, Boehner came two votes short of obtaining an outright majority in the chamber. A number of Democrats who did not attend the opening session because they were in New York paying their respects at former Gov. Mario Cuomo’s funeral, therefore allowed his 216 votes to become a majority.

Another fact is clear. Boehner’s 8th District will become open at the end of next month. After the official vacancy is registered, Gov. John Kasich (R) will schedule a special election to replace the departing Speaker in accordance with Ohio election law.

The 8th District is heavily Republican. Mitt Romney carried the district 62-36 percent over President Obama in 2012, and Sen. John McCain defeated Obama 60-38 percent four years earlier. In both instances, the Democrat won the state. Not surprisingly, the 8th is the most Republican district in Ohio.

The six-county CD begins at the Hamilton County border, capturing the most northern Cincinnati suburbs before moving north and then east around the city of Dayton. It then juts further east to annex the city of Springfield.

The special election will draw many Republican candidates. Several names are already being mentioned as potential contenders. The two most likely to enter the race are Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones and state Senate President Keith Faber. Five other current and former state legislators are possibilities, too. Two 2014 Tea Party candidates, J.D. Winteregg and Matthew Ashworth, have already announced that they will run.

Possibly the most interesting potential candidate, however, is former Rep. Steve Austria (R-OH-7). Under the 2011 redistricting plan, a map that Speaker Boehner approved and helped drive through the legislature, cost Austria his seat. The state lost a congressional district in reapportionment, and the ability for the Republicans to maximize their potential meant a GOP seat in the western part of the state would have to be collapsed.

Austria, a two-term House member, became the odd man out. His location next to Boehner’s district certainly didn’t help him, knowing that the Speaker would be given the safest Republican district in the state. The result placed Austria in a district with veteran Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH-10) before a Dayton area constituency that the latter member dominated. Instead of forcing a Republican primary battle with Turner, Rep. Austria decided to retire. Now with Boehner out of the way, from territory that Austria partially represented, it’s possible for him to enter the race.

The Ohio vote will feature an open primary since the state does not register voters in political parties. It is likely that the Republican winner from what promises to be a large field will be nominated, and virtually guaranteed election in the special general, by only a small plurality of voters.

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