Tom Kacich | Boehner could be interesting guest at Davis fete

Tom Kacich | Boehner could be interesting guest at Davis fete

This could be a lot of fun.

"This" being a fundraiser Tuesday night in Champaign for U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis featuring former Speaker of the House John Boehner of Ohio, an ally of Davis' and a man who has uttered some remarkably candid things since resigning from Congress in October 2015.

Put down 200 bucks and you might be able to hear Boehner tell some stories about his quarter-century in Congress or offer a frank assessment about post-Boehner Washington, D.C., or possibly serve up his opinion of the Republican Party under Donald Trump.

The event will be from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Champaign Country Club.

Tickets are $200 per person, $350 per couple. They're available through Davis' campaign organization.

This won't be Boehner's first time in Champaign. In 2012, he spoke at a $250 per person dinner at the I Hotel and Conference Center, also on Davis' behalf. At the time, the Taylorville Republican was running for his first term, an election he barely won over Bloomington Democrat David Gill.

When Boehner suddenly announced his retirement in September 2015, Davis offered his gratitude.

"The speaker's always been somebody who gave me the opportunity to lead on many issues. Frankly, he's the reason I got named to conference committees on major bills, including the Farm Bill in the last Congress."

And he noted that Boehner had traveled not only to Champaign and to the Metro East area to campaign for him, but to Taylorville.

"That was very special for me because it was the first time that anyone I have talked to could recall a Speaker of the House ever coming to my hometown," Davis said.

Boehner's made a number of appearances this summer on behalf of Republican candidates — the event Tuesday is his only one for Davis — and he's been relatively circumspect. At a recent appearance at the Iowa State Fair, he said it would be a "pretty close call" for Republicans to maintain control Congress, and urged caution in Trump's trade war.

He said he would "do this a little differently," when asked about tariffs on Chinese goods. "I always thought you caught more bees with honey than vinegar," he added.

Earlier this summer, during an appearance at a policy conference on Mackinac Island, Mich., Boehner called Trump "clearly the most unusual person we've elected as president."

He said the Republican Party was "kind of taking a nap somewhere."

"There is no Republican Party. There's a Trump party," Boehner said.

He offered similar opinions in a November 2017 story in Politico.

"Donald Trump's not a Republican. He's not a Democrat. He's a populist," Boehner told writer Tim Alberta. "He doesn't have an ideological bone in his body."

Earlier, in a speech, he had called Trump's presidency "a complete disaster" but quieted after hearing from Trump's then chief of staff, Reince Piebus.

It's possible, of course, that Boehner will be subdued in his comments about Trump this week. If so, someone might ask him about his change of heart on marijuana legalization. While in office he said he was "unalterably opposed." Now he serves on the advisory board of a company that markets cannabis.

"Over the last 10 or 15 years, the American people's attitudes have changed dramatically," he said. "I find myself in that same position."

Speaking of change ...

Jon Rector, the Champaign County Board member who lost his primary election race for county clerk to Matt Grandone last spring, is co-hosting a fundraiser for Grandone at the Urbana Country Club on Sept. 5. Tickets are $50 up to $500.

"We're proud to support Matt Grandone and the Republican Party in the race for county clerk," Rector said last week.

Grandone won the GOP primary last March, 52.7 percent to 47.3 percent. He'll face Democrat Aaron Ammons in the clerks race in November.

Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette columnist. His column appears on Sundays.

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