Tea Party Eyes Boehner’s Seat

House Speaker Seen Drifting From Base

Washington — House Speaker John Boehner has been attacked by conservatives in his own party who think him insufficiently ideological, and has had to deal with constant rumors that his top lieutenant, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., is plotting to steal his speakership.

But Boehner now faces a more direct challenge: a full on assault from Tea Party activists back home in his Ohio Congressional district, where Boehner faces three challengers in a May 6 primary.

“I’m fed up with him. I’m fed up with the fact that he’s never home, fed up with the fact that he’s never accessible,” said J.S. Winteregg, 32, a high school French teacher who is getting support from a national organization that has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into advertisements, billboards and direct mail aimed at convincing voters to elect him to Boehner’s Ohio seat.

Winteregg has raised $43,000 for his campaign, less than 1 percent of the $5.5 million Boehner has raised for his principal campaign account. But the outside group, The Tea Party Leadership Fund, has spent almost $320,000 on voter communications opposing Boehner and backing Winteregg.

Primary challenges are nothing new for Boehner. Since winning his seat, which includes several suburban and rural counties north of Cincinnati along the Indiana border, he has won five contested primaries. In 2010, he beat two challengers and took 85 percent of the vote.

Two other Republicans are also vying to oust Boehner: Matthew Ashworth, a tea party activist, and Eric Gurr, who owns a computer consulting firm, could split the anti-Boehner vote.

Boehner himself first won his seat in Congress by challenging an incumbent. In 1990, Boehner, then a state representative, ran against Rep. Buz Lukens, who had been convicted of a misdemeanor after a sexual relationship with a minor; Boehner beat Lukens and another former congressman, Tom Kindness, with a 49 percent plurality of the vote.

“He always makes an effort to run for reelection, but there’s no doubt that he’s putting a little extra effort into it this time,” said George Lang, president of the West Chester Township’s Board of Trustees. “In my opinion, this is still Boehner country.”