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The only pro-democracy Republican in Congress? Seriously?

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Rory Ryan

By Rory Ryan
The Highland County Press

With such a crowded field for Ohio's Second Congressional race to succeed U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup, it came as no surprise whatsoever that a candidate today tossed his support to another. In fact, I predicted as much in December 2023.

The only surprise for me was that it was a Democrat candidate, Joe Wessels, who withdrew from the race to support moderate and self-proclaimed "anti-Trump" Republican Phil Heimlich in the district's March 19 GOP primary.

“I’m a lifelong Democrat and I always will be," Wessels said. "I got into this race for many reasons, but this one especially: Helping to save democracy and America. Electing Donald Trump for president, through his own words and promises, would end democracy and begin an autocracy in the greatest country on Earth. I need to do everything in my power to stop that from happening. This district is the most red in Ohio, so it’s an uphill battle for any Democrat. I’m supporting Phil Heimlich to protect our democracy and save our country. Full stop.”

Well, how about that? If the Second District truly is "the most red in Ohio," as Wessels said (and it is), I'm rather doubtful that his endorsement of Heimlich is necessarily a positive thing for the good doctor's son. Time will tell.

Personally, I think his assertions about anyone – including Trump – establishing an "autocracy" are more than a bit hyperbolic. It's all about context. Trump is the ultimate political blowhard (Biden once was when he was still somewhat lucid – "wanna do push-ups?"). 

But neither Trump nor Biden can turn the United States into an autocracy. The open-borders liberals do not want an autocracy. They want a plutocracy: A country governed by the wealthy, elites and ruling class of people whose power derives from their wealth. Individual rights and the Bill of Rights be damned.

“I know it might seem surprising and even disloyal for me to support a Republican,”  Wessels said. “That’s not what matters most right now. We must do what’s necessary to counter the toxic MAGA movement. When Phil gets elected, he’ll be the only pro-democracy Republican in Congress. We need him in Washington. Plain and simple.”

Wow. Voters can only suppose that Heimlich agrees with Wessels. But that's a serious insult to all 219 U.S. House Republican members, including current Second District Rep. Brad Wenstrup. By the way, what's wrong with "Making America Great Again?" It was Ronald Reagan's message long before it was anyone else's.

It's no wonder good statesmen like Reps. Wenstrup and Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Missouri, have announced they are leaving Congress. Who needs such vitriol on a daily basis?

My hunch – and prediction – is that Wessels' defection to the "dark side" will not be the first. As things move forward, I expect other candidates to withdraw and voice support for one of their erstwhile opponents. It is to be expected.

It's also to be expected that the C4 dark money mailers that we're accustomed to haven't shown up in this race. The reason? Too many candidates have prior political connections and hope to have future connections. As we get closer to the March 19 primary, I wouldn't be surprised to see other camps align themselves. 

I also think some of this is why current Second District Rep. Wenstrup and former Second District Rep. Rob Portman thus far are sitting this one out.

Right now, the David Taylor and Larry Kidd campaigns seem to have the political capital. If Heimlich divides their support – with Democrat help – one or more of the other candidates may have an opportunity – regardless of his war chest. Possibly state Sen. Shane Wilkin from Highland County.

We'll see.
Early voting begins Feb. 21. Personally, unless I change from a registered Libertarian, which is not at all easy to become in Ohio, I've got no dog in the primary hunt. Again, we'll see what happens. The HCP certainly had some influence in the 2012 primary upset.

Rory Ryan is publisher and owner of The Highland County Press, Highland County's only locally owned and operated newspaper.


Jim Thompson (not verified)

7 February 2024

Those protesting Trump on grounds that he is a threat to democracy are often the very ones attempting to destroy democracy in this country. Witness Joe Biden's actions daily.

Matthew (not verified)

7 February 2024

I have no idea, on this date, who to vote for. That's rare. I like voting for the winner...

Mike Anagnostou (not verified)

7 February 2024

Phil Heimlich is a good and honorable man and represents true conservatism before the film-flam man Donald Trump took over the Republican Party. Trump doesn’t believe in anything except himself. He is the most amoral unprincipled person ever to attain the presidency. I’ve yet to meet any Trump defender that argues that he is honest and trustworthy. ••••Publisher's note: This column was about the Second District, not the former POTUS. Thanks for reading.

John D Gillespie (not verified)

27 February 2024

I attended the Lincoln day dinner and listened with an open mind to all the candidates that spoke. All had good points and good ideas. All except one...Heimlich had obviously gotten his dates and locations mixed up. I can only assume he meant to attend an event for a totally different party. If there is anyone out there that is even vaguely considering this person please go listen to him speak so you can correct that idea. There is a reason that a Democrat backed out of the race to support him. As proof that Republicans support Free Speech this person, who was obviously in front of a crowd that did not agree with his rhetoric...allowed him to speak without heckling him and allowed him the same amount of time to speak. He had to be stopped by the MC when he went over time and tried to continue anyway.

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