FOXWIRE: House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio could draw a primary next May from popular Butler County, Ohio Sherrif Rick Jones.

Jones has taken out petitions to potentially challenge Boehner.

 

Boehner has cruised to re-election in his southwest Ohio district since 1990. But Jones, known to locals as “Spotlight Jones,” for his penchant for drawing press, could prove to be a significant challenger to Boehner.

 

“This is going to be first real race this district has seen in a long, long time,” said Miami University (OH) political science department chairman Ryan Barilleaux. “Rick Jones has the advantage of publicity. He has recognition in other areas outside Butler County.”

 

Jones has required that sex offenders pay to register. He also drew headlines when he considered billing the White House when President Clinton visited the area years ago.

 

Jones is also outspoken on immigration and took out a newspaper ad last year challenging the positions of then GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

 

Boehner represents most of Butler County, just north of Cincinnati. It’s the biggest population center in the district by far. The district stretches far to the north, hugging the Indiana state line and including some suburbs of Dayton.

 

Boehner hasn’t faced a serious primary fight since he upended former Rep. Buz Lukens, R-Ohio, and former Rep. Tom Kindness, R-Ohio, in a three-way battle during his first race for Congress 19 years ago.  Boehner and Kindness decided to challenge Lukens after a Columbus, Ohio TV recorded him talking to a woman about having sexual intercourse with her teenage daughter.

 

Jones has long made known his interest in challenging Boehner. A key Republican source familiar with the district indicates that Boehner acolytes were surprised Jones hadn’t jumped into the contest before.

 

For his part, Boehner appears to take a possible challenge in stride.

 

“Congressman Boehner continues to proudly serve Ohio’s 8th Congressional District, working hard to develop better solutions for his constituents that will create jobs, lower taxes and put our state and nation on the path to prosperity,” said Boehner spokeswoman Jessica Towhey.

 

Efforts to reach Jones for comment were unsuccessful.

 

Ryan Barrilleaux indicates that Boehner should be in a “strong position to defend his seat given his leadership position in the House.” But Barilleaux also indicates that Boehner could potentially have some vulnerability.

 

First, Barilleaux points to the general decline of the Republican brand over the past two election cycles, particularly in Ohio. Plus, he says, some Republicans have argued that Boehner, as House GOP Leader, presided over two massive election defeats at the polls in 2006 and 2008. Finally, Barilleaux says Boehner’s leadership position could present a problem. Recent elections have featured the defeats of former House Speaker Tom Foley, D-Wash., and former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D. And next year, Republicans have placed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in their electoral crosshairs.

 

“The leader, by virtue of his position, has to devote most of his time to his leadership post,” said Barilleaux. “The district has to come second.”

 

Plus, Barilleaux wonders if a potential Jones candidacy is indicative of the turmoil inside the Republican party. Barilleaux says it’s a mood that drove Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) to abandon the GOP ranks Tuesday.

 

“Anytime you have a major defeat for a party, you’re going to have a lot of soul searching,” said Barilleaux.

 

Boehner has raised $440,188 for the coming election cycle. He handily defeated Democrat Nicholas von Stein by more than two to one last fall.

 

Jones won re-election in Butler County by a similar margin in 2008.