Whether Jim Jordan wins the speakership or not, voters in his Ohio district will stand by their man

URBANA, Ohio (AP) — Rep. Jim Jordan, so far, has failed to get the needed votes to become House Speaker but his fight for the coveted leadership role isn’t done, and the devotion of many of his constituents back in Ohio seems unwavering.

In Washington, Jordan has made a name for himself as a conservative pugilist — in line with his avid supporter, former President Donald Trump — by being unafraid to duke it out in the political arena, especially against his Democratic colleagues. He’s a founder of the Freedom Caucus, a contingent of cantankerous and often chaotic far-right House Republicans, and he’s one of the loudest voices continuing to perpetuate false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

In Ohio, Jordan is a hometown boy whose Ohio State University wrestling coach title, conservative policies and never-say-die persona on Capitol Hill have earned him more devotion than he’s currently receiving in Congress.

“He says what he believes in, because he’s there for the people,” said Betty Lemmon, a 77-year-old Republican from Champaign County. Jordan, she said, would make an excellent House speaker, citing a track record of his leading the ideological charge for Trump, who she voted for in both the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections.

It was a common theme on a cloudy fall day in downtown Urbana, Ohio — an oasis of cafes and antique stores in the sprawling, rich farmland that makes up most of Jordan’s district. It’s a district Jordan won with nearly 70 percent of the vote in the last election, and one that the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled multiple times to be unconstitutional under gerrymandered congressional maps drawn by Jordan’s fellow Republicans.

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Constituents interviewed by the Associated Press applauded his fighting spirit and conservative stances on federal issues like border security and abortion. Several liked that he still refuses to comply with a congressional subpoena about the Jan. 6 attack at the Capitol and is leading the impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, touting a “stick it to the man” attitude.

Cynthia Leach, a Republican store owner in Urbana’s Monument Square, called Jordan “not easily persuaded” and “forceful” — qualities she said she admires in a leader.

But for all his stances and inquiries, Jordan’s achievements as a legislator are harder to spot. While Russell Dye, a spokesperson for Jordan, noted in an email that Jordan has signed his name to support over 60 bills created by other legislators that have become law, no bill Jordan has sponsored himself has had much movement in the House since he was first elected in 2006.

When asked about what Jordan has done specifically for his district, Dye did not cite any of Jordan’s legislation, but instead pointed to casework for constituents. “Congressman Jordan has always done what he told the voters he would do — whether it’s assisting seniors getting Medicare and Social Security benefits, expediting passports, helping veterans, meeting with thousands of constituents, or touring hundreds of businesses in Ohio’s 4th district — and the constituents know it.”

But there are voices critical of Jordan even in the heavily Republican district.

Sherry Vaught, a Democratic mayoral candidate in Mansfield, had harsh criticism for the Ohio congressman as his possible speakership looms. She said Jordan has been too busy dividing the U.S. House to get any real work done for the people he represents.

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“While he’s busy scoring points in political theater and pursuing partisan agendas, the people are struggling with real issues right here at home,” Vaught said in a statement.

But what Jordan’s done so far appeals to his supporters, who said they are proud to have such a vocal, well-known and brawling representative in their corner. They’re happy that he’s become a Trump darling, a possible federal leader and one of the most talked about politicians in the country.

How he gets people talking is part of his appeal, said Herb Asher, a political science professor at The Ohio State University. Jordan’s seat is ideal for a Republican like him — a red district in a red state that’s embraced more radical Republicans like Sen. J.D. Vance in recent years.

“There are many people who are happy to have a member of Congress who says what they think,” Asher said.

JD Knopp, an 18-year-old resident of Mechanicsburg, Ohio just outside Urbana, said he thinks Jordan will make a great leader for a divided Republican party.

“He doesn’t take crap off of anybody. He’s a country boy,” he said.

Knopp likes that Jordan puts other politicians “in their place” and his “drain the swamp” mentality. Whether Jordan becomes speaker won’t affect his opinion, but it might change how he views those who keep the congressman from winning the speakership.

“I guess they’re RINOs, then,” Knopp shrugged, referring to a term used to describe “Republicans in name only.”

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Samantha Hendrickson is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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