Andrew Hounshell of Middletown is no career politician; he’s a steel worker, an Army veteran and father of three-year-old triplets. A self-described regular guy.
And now he is about to try to climb one of the highest mountains in politics – running for the 8th Congressional District seat held by the Speaker of the House, John Boehner.
“There is a complete disconnect between John Boehner and the leadership of the Republican party and the average working people of this country and this congressional district,’’ the 37-year-old Hounshell told WVXU last week. “The people of the 8th District need an alternative.”
Considering the fact that there was no alternative to Boehner on the ballot in 2012, Hounshell may have a point.
No Democratic candidate was on the ballot in the 8th District in 2012 – a district that goes well beyond the confines of Butler County and includes all of Preble, Darke, Miami, Clark counties and part of Mercer County.
The only votes not cast for Boehner were for a write-in candidate, who got a grand total of 97 votes.
It wasn’t much better two years before, when Boehner did have a Democratic candidate running against him - Justin Coussoule of Liberty Township, a West Point grad and former U.S. Army captain who was forced to give up a good job as a purchasing manager for Procter & Gamble to devote time to running against Boehner.
Coussoule ended up with 30.3 percent of the vote to Boehner’s 65.6 percent.
Boehner consistently out-performs Republican presidential candidates in this heavily Republican district. Last year, Mitt Romney took 62 percent of the 8th District vote; in 2008, John McCain took 60.3 percent. Barack Obama’s vote total in the 8th District dropped from 38 percent in 2008 to 36 percent last year.
Nonetheless, Hounshell is “all-in” for the 2014 race.
Hounshell first surfaced in politics last fall, when he spoke before a crowd of thousands at Cincinnati’s Eden Park. He was given the job of introducing President Obama to the crowd; and he gave rousing speech, making the argument that working men and women around the country had a friend in the White House in Barack Obama.
He works at AK Steel in his hometown of Middletown; and is vice president of his union local, the International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers Local 1943.
And he is a former Republican.
On his campaign website – www.andrewhounshell.com – Hounshell writes of being a five year old in Middletown when President Reagan was gravely wounded in an assassination attempt. He asked his mother if he could get a “get well” card for the president. She did; and it was mailed off to the White House.
A few weeks later, a letter came on White House stationary from Reagan, thanking him for his well wishes. The Middletown newspaper ran a story on the letter – “Middletown Boy Gets White House Response” – and he became a celebrity in his home town.
From then on, Hounshell wrote, he thought Reagan “could do no wrong.”
A decade or so later, he said, his brother was in the Army, stationed in Germany, and was being transferred to Ft. Lewis, Washington, with no leave to visit his family back home. His brother’s wife had given birth to a son and the baby’s grandparents had not seen their first grandchild. His parents called the office of their then-new congressman, John Boehner, who arranged a leave for the soldier before he had to report for duty.
Boehner had a fan in young Andrew Hounshell.
By the time he reached his 30s, Hounshell said, “a time of clarity” came to him – Republicans, he began to believe, were not on the side of working people like himself and his parents.
“Through cuts in Social Security, appointments to the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board), cuts to the VA, immigration reform (or the lack thereof), tax loopholes for corporations, subsidies to oil companies, etc., our middle class has been eroded and we are not taking care of those who can no longer take care of themselves,’’ Hounshell wrote.
The biggest challenge Hounshell faces is money.
He said he is using the model of Organizing for America, the Obama political organization, which raised money over the internet in small contributions from people all over the country. On Hounshell’s website, there is a link to ActBlue, a national online service that takes contributions for Democratic candidates specified by the donors. ActBlue has raised hundreds of millions for Democratic candidates around the country over its nine years of existence.
“We are looking for people who are willing to give $10, $20,’’ Hounshell said. “We don’t need a lot of TV ads. What we need is to get our boots on the ground in the district, knocking on as many doors as possible. When was the last time John Boehner went out knocking on doors, looking for votes?”
Still, it is a high mountain to climb.
At the very least, though, voters in the 8th Congressional District of Ohio will have something next year that they didn’t have in 2012.
Another name on the ballot besides John Boehner.