Ohio’s Second Congressional District has been represented by Jean Schmidt since September 2005.
Almost Over four years later, it appears that she finally has a worthy, serious, sensible conservative challenger (i.e., after the last time it happened, which was June 2005).
It’s worth recounting how Jean Schmidt got to this point to recognize just how many bullets she has dodged.
In June 2005′s special 11-candidate GOP primary to replace Rob Portman, she shrewdly/luckily stayed out of the intensely negative boxing match between perceived front-runners Pat DeWine, Bob McEwen, and Tom Brinkman.
In that primary, Pat DeWine spent about a million dollars to get less than 5,500 votes. DeWine was not seen as legitimately conservative, largely because his father Mike was so busy selling out sensible conservative principles and values in Washington during that time (think Gang of 14, ANWR). That result should have been, but wasn’t, a red-letter hint to U.S. Senator DeWine that he would be in serious trouble in his reelection campaign the next year.
Bob McEwen, despite deep-pocketed national support and testimonials from the likes of James Dobson and other supposed family-values leaders, was fortunately taken down in the final weeks by the Southwestern Ohio blogosphere. In retrospect, the fact that McEwen’s outside supporters were so willing to overlook his so many serious flaws was a troubling preview of the unforgivable passes those same people ended up giving Objectively Unfit Mitt Romney in the GOP 2008 presidential race.
Tom Brinkman, the candidate for whom I voted, was taken down by a last-minute ad blitz attacking his opposition to the death penalty.
Out of that dogfight, Jean Schmidt emerged the shrewd/lucky winner.
Then came the August 2, 2005 special election against Democrat Paul Hackett. Even Schmidt’s biggest fans have to admit that she ran an awful campaign marred by several serious gaffes. Meanwhile, Iraq War vet Hackett posed as a George W. Bush fan in his TV ads while running around the country telling his victory-starved leftospheric fans that our president was a “son of a b____” and “chicken hawk.”
Fortunately for Jean Schmidt, the establishment media, sensing an opportunity to delegitimize Bush and the war, uncharacteristically allowed Hackett’s incendiary quotes into their coverage. Because of that tactical error, Schmidt was saved once again, with yet another heavy assist from the Southwestern Ohio blogosphere. At literally the eleventh hour, our work was noticed by then-prominent video blogger Trey Jackson. His post was seen by Rush Limbaugh’s peeps, causing Rush to deliver Paul Hackett the relentless hammering he should have received all along from Schmidt during most of his broadcast on Election Day. Schmidt won by less than 4,000 votes.
The CQ Politics Eye on 2010 Blog does a pretty good job taking the Schmidt saga from there:
She had a rocky beginning to her tenure, in part for comments on the House floor that appeared to question the patriotism of Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. John P. Murtha.
In 2006, Schmidt beat former Rep. Bob McEwen in the primary by 5 percentage points, then edged Democratic physician Victoria Wulsin by 1 percentage point in the general election.
In 2008, Schmidt beat back a primary challenge from state Rep. Tom Brinkman, then won a rematch against Wulsin, albeit with just 45 percent of the vote in a three-way contest in which Wulsin took 37 percent and independent candidate David Krikorian won 18 percent.
Krikorian is running again in 2010, this time as a Democrat, though party officials have been promoting the candidacy of state Rep. Todd Book.
This brings us to Mike Kilburn. Where he hits Schmidt is a perfect fit (again from CQ’s blog):
“I don’t have anything against Jean Schmidt, but I think there’s a movement to elect more conservative politicians to Washington,” Kilburn, who serves in Warren County east of Cincinnati, told the Hamilton Journal-News late last week. “I have a burning desire to make sure this country won’t go broke.”
Kilburn, who is serving his seventh four-year term on the county commission, drew headlines this year when he opposed accepting some federal stimulus dollars for transportation projects on the grounds that it was “filthy money.”
…. Kilburn spoke with CQ Politics on Monday afternoon and emphasized restraint in federal spending. He said that Schmidt “doesn’t really have the most conservative spending record,” pointing to her vote for a $700 billion program to stabilize the financial markets.
“You’ve got to be able to say no. Government can’t be all things to all people,” he said. “The Republicans kind of lost their way — they thought that they would curry favor with their voters and their constituents if they could bring something back home for them.”
To be fair, Jean Schmidt has mostly not “lost her way.” But her financial bailout vote (what CQ Politics euphemistically calls the vote to “stabilize the financial markets”) cost her my presumptive support and I daresay that of thousands of others in this district. My vote is up for grabs, because at crunch time, she and many others who say they are conservative (sadly including House Republican leader John Boehner) sided with the Washington elites who don’t care what the people think or want.
I have never heard or seen a good justification from Team Schmidt about why she voted for the financial bailout. If she was blackmailed/fooled by threats that Second District employers would go under if their credit lines or loans went away, we deserve to know that, with specifics. (Given what Treasury Secretary Paulson actually did with bailout funds in the program’s early days, it’s very hard to believe that things were nearly as serious as advertised.) Absent any kind of valid justification, what we need to hear is a heartfelt “I was wrong. I am sorry.”
Schmidt also betrayed a weakness in her knowledge of how our government is supposed to work at the Voice of America rally in September. While listening to a broadcast of the event, I heard her give the courts credit for possessing far more power than they constitutionally have (if anyone has the specific quote, let me know, preferably with a link).
Mike Kilburn seems to have a record of standing up when it counts. He is right; stimulus money IS “filthy money” stolen from future generations by a government that is spending trillions more than it is taking in.
He’s also right about the now loophole-ridden (thanks to Washington and Ohio’s compliant Strickland administration) Food Stamp program:
Warren County commissioners are upset after learning about a loophole in Ohio’s public assistance plan that allows wealthy people to collect food stamps.
The commissioners met Tuesday after learning that a person with a paid-for $311,000 home, a new Mercedes and $80,000 in the bank is being given $500 a month in food stamps and $300 in cash assistance.
“This is absolutely ridiculous and the buck stops here,” Commissioner Michael Kilburn said.
Kilburn doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy who will descend into the kind of stupid, sexist character assassination that other challengers have stooped to in past primary attempts to defeat Schmidt. If I’m correct, that will be a huge relief.
I’m sure we’ll hear whining from the Ohio Republican Party, which will until further notice go by the acronym ORPINO (the Ohio Republican Party In Name Only) around here, that “we shouldn’t have divisive primaries,” and “incumbents deserve the benefit of the doubt,” blah-blah-blah. Spare me. This illogic, and the accompanying failure to define oneself to the grass roots who must be motivated to do the grunt work of general-election campaigning, explains why mediocre, squishy GOP candidates in the Buckeye State get their hats handed to them in general elections far more than they should, given the sensible center-right beliefs of the vast majority of Buckeye state residents.
Apparently that’s not going to happen this time, and that’s a very good thing. Make Jean Schmidt defend her record. Make Mike Kilburn tell us and show us why he believes he’ll be better.
Let the games begin.