Headlines were quick to note how easily House Speaker John Boehner won the 2014 May Primary, which, of course, he did. But in the smallest county represented by him, Preble, only 62 percent of the voters chose him — a significant drop from the 80 percent of the vote he received in the previous primary.
Preble County sits north of Boehner’s native Butler County and has a strong Republican base with 38 percent of the registered voters being Republican. Voters registered Democrat comprises 21 percent and nonpartisan comprises 40 percent. Because of the amount of Republican and independent voters, county-level elected offices are occupied by Republicans. In the past three to four decades only a handful of Democrats have been elected as County Commissioner.
Lack of Jobs
It was a lively commissioner race that offered clues into Boehner’s diminishing support in Preble County. One of the themes in newly elected county commissioner Rodney Creech’s campaign was the lack of jobs in Preble County — specifically citing the reduction in the county’s police protection due to layoffs. The county, hit hard by the recession, was forced to make budgetary cuts during a time when the unemployment rate in the county was already rising — reaching as high as 12 percent.
Creech’s opponent, incumbent David Wesler, conceded the area needed more jobs, but defended his efforts stating that during his time in office, the Commissioners hired an economic development director to address the issue.
“The commissioners have had several successes, including the recent Pratt Industries expansion at Lewisburg Container that’s bringing 140 new jobs and $52 million in new investment to Preble County, Wesler said,” the Palladium-Item reported .
The issue of work opportunities also surfaced in Butler County. When questioned by Butler County Democratic Chairwoman Jocelyn Bucaro about what he had done for the region in regards to job creation, Boehner defended his track record.
Boehner cited the Meldahl Lock and Dam power plant, retaining a large Tipp City (Miami County) employer, assisting AK-Steel with pension obligations and helping Darke County and Piqua upgrade their airports as evidence of how the area has been helped during his years in office, the Journal-News reported.
Preble County Leadership
A second issue raised in the Preble County commissioner race was voters apparent lack of confidence in their party leadership, at least at the local level. In Preble County, Creech’s win marks the second consecutive primary where a locally-endorsed candidate was not elected.
In the May 2012 primary, Republican County Commissioner Denise Robertson, won beating out two former commissioners even though she was not the party’s endorsed candidate. In a separate commissioner race in the same primary, the Republican-endorsed candidate — incumbent Chris Day — barely survived a three-way race with 36 percent of the vote.
In the game of politics and economics, Preble County is an extremely small player despite residing inside the district of one of the United State’s most powerful politicians. With only 27,393 registered voters its influence pales in comparison to Butler County’s more than 234,000 registered voters.
However, despite it small size and influence, Boehner does visit the county. HIs recent visit was highlighted on JohnBoehner.com where he is pictured at the lunch counter of an Eaton diner ‘chatting with constituents’. The conversation quickly turned to ‘jobs and Obamacare,’ the blog states.
But job creation was not the most crucial concern to the only patron quoted in the blog.
Identified as Gene, a Preble County native, the patron is quoted as saying, “Think about what we accomplished in three years and nine months during World War II. We can’t build a website in that same time,” repeating an analogy that surfaced on the Web at least six months earlier.
Historically, Boehner has faced no serious contenders in the 8th Congressional District even running unopposed in eight of his 13 primaries. When facing an opponent, Boehner has carried as much as 85 percent of the vote in a Preble County primary.