Republican Congresswoman Jean Schmidt (OH-2) became the first GOP House member to lose her reelection bid to a primary challenger Tuesday night.
Brad Wenstrup, an Iraq War veteran and doctor, won Tuesday night’s election in a 49 – 43 percent vote. Wenstrup is a relative political novice who has never held public office before. His only political experience was an unsuccessful campaign to become Mayor of Cincinnati in 2009 before deciding to challenge Schmidt for her Congressional seat. Though Schmidt had a 90% American Conservative Union Lifetime Rating, Wenstrup challenged her from the right, billing himself as a tea party candidate and attacking Schmidt for a number of positions, including Schmidt’s vote for raising the debt ceiling. Wenstrup also is in favor of flat tax, repealing Obamacare and increased competition across state lines for insurance companies.
It’s not exactly a surprise Schmidt lost. She was facing more challengers in her primary than any other sitting House member. Besides Wenstrup, former Air Force pilot Fred Kundrata and retired Marine Tony Brush also sought to unseat the Congresswoman.
Aside from challengers within her own party, she was a target of the Campaign for Primary Accountability, a SuperPAC devoted to opposing longtime incumbents in districts, through a series of radio and print ads. Says group spokesman Curtis Ellis,
“Jean Schmidt is an example of an entrenched incumbent who doesn’t have very high favorable ratings among the people of her district. She’s in a district where the general election in November is a cakewalk. It’s a one-party-dominated district.”
After a seven year run, Schmidt didn’t even win in her home county, Clermont County. It wasn’t even close. Schmidt’s homebase only gave Schmidt 41 percent of the vote, giving eventual winner Wenstrup 50 percent vote.
Her loss can be attributed to several factors, including a weak performance during her previous terms and an ethics probe in 2011 for improperly accepting $500,000 worth of legal help. Although it was ruled she broke no laws, she still had to pay back the money and it left a black mark on her record that the people of her district clearly didn’t forget.
Coupled with her controversial public statement to Pennsylvania Representative John Murtha, “that cowards cut and run, Marines never do,” and her association with President Obama, Republicans in Ohio’s second Congressional District were ready to move on. Said voter George Abraham of Schmidt, “Anyone that goes up there and gives Mr. Obama a hug can’t get my vote, I’m sorry.”
Even endorsements from the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Ohio Republican Party and several Right to Life groups, weren’t enough to keep Schmidt in office. Schmidt conceded on Tuesday evening in a statement saying, “I will continue to work hard through the end of the year to represent the interests and the conservative values of the people of Southern Ohio. I will continue to be their strong voice in our nation’s capital.”