GREENVILLE — With less than three weeks left before Ohio’s March 15 primary election, local Republicans gathered to listen to Congressional hopefuls at the Darke County Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner, held Thursday night at the Greenville Elks Lodge.
Seven of the 15 GOP candidates running for the open 8th District Congressional seat were in attendance: Ohio Sen. Bill Beagle of Tipp City, Warren Davidson of Troy, Joseph Matvey of West Chester, Scott George of Tipp City, Jim Spurlino of Centerville, Kevin White of New Carlisle, and J.D. Winteregg of Troy.
Each candidate was given an opportunity to briefly introduce himself to the audience. The hopefuls then were each asked by Darke County GOP Chairman Mike Rieman to answer two randomly picked questions. What follows is a sampling of their responses.
When asked what is the greatest resource of the 8th District and how he would work to promote and protect it, Sen. Beagle responded, “The greatest resource in the 8th Congressional District is, of course, its people.”
“Whether you’re talking about its people in the form of its businesses, and the skills that they have, or people in terms of their workforce, and their education levels, and their work ethic — which is outstanding — or if you’re talking about our people in terms of their commitment to their communities, these are the greatest assets that we have,” he said.
Beagle added that as a Congressman, he would leverage the area’s skilled work force.
“We have deep knowledge in manufacturing, deep knowledge in agriculture, deep knowledge in materials, research and development,” he said.
Winteregg, who lost a primary challenge to former Rep. John Boehner in 2014, was asked for his take on term limits for Congress.
“Yes, there should be term limits for Congress,” he said. “This is one thing I’ve been harping on every place that I go.”
“You have to realize, the root of the problem we’re experiencing right now, is the ‘culture of Congress.’ We can’t accomplish anything because we have people that are beholden to special interests, who drive fundraising by keeping us divided, and that culture’s going to remain the same way unless we do something to hold them more accountable.”
“I am absolutely in favor of term limits. I think 12 years is enough. That gives two terms to a senator, six terms for the House, and that allows them to see two different presidents. I think that’s absolutely reasonable,” he said.
Winteregg also proposed a plan requiring representatives to live at home, where they would be less influenced by Washington, D.C. politics, and able to cast votes via secure connections.
“If you think about the technology we have, which is absolutely incredible, there’s no reason for us to be conducting business in Washington, D.C., where the lobbyists have access, but not the people,” he said.
White, asked about the importance of a balanced Congressional budget, said that Congress has “shown no discipline.”
“I say that a balanced budget amendment is an absolute necessity now,” he said, adding, “The status quo is unacceptable and it’s destroying the full fabric of America — not just domestic policy, but we’re weakening ourselves and our ability to fight in support of our troops and defend freedom on our own shores, let alone across the seas.”
Touching on the immigration issue, which has been a driving force in the campaign of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, Spurlino’s response to how he would handle illegal immigration brought enthusiastic applause from the audience.
“First and foremost — build a wall,” he said.
“You think about what comes across the border, it’s not just about one or two issues, these are huge issues affecting us. You talk about terrorists crossing that border, you talk about heroin crossing that border — the vast majority of heroin crosses that border, and we all know what kind of issue that is in the community. And lastly, of course, is illegal immigrants, taking jobs, using our roadways, taking our benefits and not paying for them,” he explained.
Matvey invoked Trump when asked what he would do to unite Republicans to help take back the White House.
“As you well know, there is one colorful, interesting candidate who is leading, winning primaries left and right,” he said. “His message is that he’s a ‘non-politician,’ who is saying things very clearly, and he’s frustrated with Washington.”
Matvey added, “What we need to do is make sure that no matter who the [nominee] is, that we all collectively support them. Because at this point, fighting amongst ourselves is not getting anything accomplished.”
Davidson, asked what legislation he would introduce first if elected to Congress, drew applause saying, “Talk about a bipartisan issue, there’s really no excuse — please fix the VA [Veteran’s Administration].”
“Every election people campaign on it, talk on it, really no excuse for not getting it done,” he added, proposing that House representatives and their staffs should be required to use the same care available to veterans.
George was tasked with explaining what idea or policy position sets him apart from the other candidates.
“This is something I’ve definitely gone on the record for, and J.D. [Winteregg] talked about this just a bit ago, but it does come down to term limits,” he said. “Our founding fathers never intended for these jobs to be lifelong careers. People actually kept their jobs when they did this before. That’s nearly impossible today, but they were never meant to be lifelong careers.”
“When you spend that amount of money in Washington, when you’re there for an extended period of time, when you’re exposed to the lobbyists, the special interest groups, the special interest money, and the dealmaking that has to be done down there, it cannot help but corrupt your thinking,” he said.
George promised that, if elected, he would serve up to three terms, “then it’s time to come home — that’s three full terms, six years — then it’s time for somebody else to go down there, bring in fresh ideas, a new passion, and it’s time for me to come back and get to my real career, and it’s time for me to live within the laws, the policies and the regulations that I helped shape when I was in Washington.”
Republican voters in the 8th District will be asked to vote twice for a Congressional nominee on the March 15 ballot — once for a GOP nominee to run in the June 7 special election to fill the remainder of Boehner’s unfinished term and once to select a nominee to run for a full term in the November 8 general election.