WEST CHESTER TOWNSHIP, Ohio — In some ways, the sharp divisions that marked Rep. John Boehner's leadership in the House of Representatives mirrored the rifts in opinion about him among constituents here.
The long-time West Chester Township resident — and House Speaker until he resigns Oct. 30 — has in recent years drawn strong reactions from detractors and supporters. In his home community, the news Friday of Boehner's unexpected departure from Congress isn't changing that.
Some locals lauded him as a savvy Washington power broker who made deals good for his home district and the country. Other constituents criticized the man who has been a Republican for nearly 40 years as an ideological impediment to more conservative Republicans and tea party-backed legislators.
Despite criticism of his congressional career, Boehner repeatedly and easily won elections here by wide margins.
A fellow West Chester resident and Cincinnati Tea Party president, Ann Becker, greeted Boehner's resignation as good news for conservatives. The surprise move leaves room for "the possibility of a change in culture here in Butler County and Ohio."
"He has always been heavy handed in his politics here locally," she said. "He did not fight vehemently against Planned Parenthood funding and a lot of House members were pushed over the edge into not supporting him as speaker."
Becker said many candidates, including conservatives, will be running for Boehner's seat.
“He has always been heavy handed in his politics here locally. He did not fight vehemently against Planned Parenthood funding, and a lot of House members were pushed over the edge into not supporting him as speaker.”Ann Becker, Cincinnati Tea Party
Even though some neighbors in his affluent, gated community of Wetherington differed politically from Boehner, they still praised him as someone who stuck to his family values and was accessible.
One of Boehner's neighbors in the golf course community said he has chatted up the House speaker, whom he spotted "wearing a tattered T-Shirt and ball cap," while he was mowing his lawn — an activity Boehner has said he enjoys immensely.
Gene Malarsky, a Democrat, said that while his politics differ from his influential neighbor he now worries that tea party conservatives will fill the leadership vacuum.
"I think John Boehner was a brake in Congress against them," Malarsky said. "We become what we are as a nation because of our ability to compromise, but the tea party is rigidly against compromise."
Across the street from Boehner's home here — one of his two residences, the other in Florida — neighbor Tim Staarmann has seen the House speaker's affection for lawn care and his family.
"John's a great neighbor and he does love his yard work," Staarmann said. "He has a lot of great values. His family and his (Catholic) faith values are central to him and a lot of the important parts he brings to Congress."
Boehner and his wife, Debbie, "are just normal folks when they here in town," Staarmann said.
Liberty Township resident Linda Meade backed Boehner during his 25-year congressional career that saw the former businessman rise through local politics to the nation's third most powerful position in the federal government.
"I'm disappointed he is resigning," she said. "Our options are limited now because the country is in a bad state," referring to the contentiousness among more traditional Republican Congress members and the rise of the tea party legislators since the 2010 elections.
"He had good intentions, but I don't think he was able to accomplish what he wanted," Meade said.
“I'm disappointed he is resigning. Our options are limited now because the country is in a bad state.”Linda Meade, Liberty Township, Ohio
Lloyd Mason of West Chester Township criticized Boehner for "not having paid more attention to his home district."
"Once he became the House speaker, his district took a back seat," said Mason, who added he welcomed the coming special election.
"It will be nice to have someone in that position whose first job is to represent the people in this district," Mason said. "I'd prefer having someone not so caught up in the political labeling (Republicans and tea partiers) and their politics but someone who is first for the district."
Some Butler County political and business leaders spoke fondly of Boehner and have known him for decades.
Joe Hinson, president and chief executive of the West Chester and Liberty Chamber Alliance, said Boehner has "represented our community and nation well." Boehner's experience as a small-business owner before being elected to Congress made him a key advocate for business in southwest Ohio.
West Chester Township Trustee George Lang said the congressman recently told him "that being the speaker is like herding cats — and that was just within his own party."
The township is the most populous and affluent in the Cincinnati area. Earlier this year West Chester was chosen as Money magazine's 30th best community in the nation.
Lang said Boehner, a former township trustee, "helped lay the groundwork for the pro-business community that we (West Chester) are enjoying today.
John Boehner announces he will resign from Congress at the end of October. He says he was planning to resign at the end of last year, but has since decided this is the right time to go. VPC
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President Barack Obama is praising outgoing House Speaker John Boehner as a "good man" and a patriot who kept his word to the president. (Sept. 25) AP
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Speaker John Boehner is known for making bold statements, but he's also known for needing a handkerchief in almost any situation. VPC
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Boehner made the surprise announcement to stunned GOP colleagues at a closed-door meeting Friday morning. The Enquirer
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At a news conference, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called Boehner's resignation "seismic" and said she was not personally informed by Boehner of his plans. (Sept. 25) AP
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Speaker John Boehner discusses a private moment he shared with Pope Francis. VPC
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President Obama said he called Speaker John Boehner after getting the news of his resignation. Obama described Boehner as a 'patriot' who 'cares about America.' VPC
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Senate Leadership Reacts to Boehner Resignation AP
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When Senator Marco Rubio announced Speaker of the House John Boehner's resignation to a crowd at the Value Voter Summit in Washington, the crowd gave a standing ovation. VPC
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