GOP challengers come at 5th District incumbent from both sides

By DAVID DUPONT

BG Independent News

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Bob Latta was not available for an interview for this story.

In response to a request by BG Independent News, his campaign spokesman Drew Griffin wrote: “We’re not going to be able to do an interview on the primary.”

That Latta again was not available explains in large part why on May 8, he’s facing a primary challenges from two fellow Republicans, Robert Kreienkamp, a retired engineer, from Wayne, and Todd Wolfrum, an attorney and county commissioner, Middle Point. In interviews both referred to his lack of responsiveness.

Latta is able to “hide from every debate, from every argument,” Wolfrum said. This approach is possible because conservatives have given up hope that Latta can be beaten.

Kreienkamp contrasted Latta’s lack of accessibility to how accessible the representative’s father, Del Latta, who represented the district for 30 years, was.

Kreienkamp recalls going to see the elder Latta about his concerns about the inheritance tax that was causing some families to sell their farms to settle up with the government.

Kreienkamp, who still lives on his family farm, said Latta was straightforward in telling him that he agreed, but that a solution was unlikely at the time. Kreienkamp appreciated his candor.

In contrast, he sent a letter to Bob Latta with his concerns about President Trump’s plan to build a border wall. In response he got a two-page letter filled with facts and figures. But “I didn’t have a clue if he supported it.”

“People want a change,” said Wolfrum who has knocked on more than 20,000 doors.

Todd Wolfrum

Wolfrum said he and a lot of conservatives are tired of politicians telling them what they want to hear when campaigning and “then go to Washington and act like liberals.”

He said his biggest issue is conservative representatives go to Washington to cut spending and limit government. But though the Republicans have controlled Congress for four years, government has grown and the spending has increased every year.

Wolfrum said he knows as a freshman congressman he won’t be able to charge in and reform entitlements, or even cut spending for PBS. But he would try to work with members of the Freedom Caucus and even those few fiscally responsible Democrats to find some ways of cutting in small ways to develop a culture of reductions.

“It’s more important to find some things that can actually be accomplished,” he said.

The incumbent, he said, doesn’t even try. Instead he announces “the next big giveaway.”

“The biggest problem we have in Washington is the career politicians,” Wolfrum said. Yes, he’s a Van Wert county commissioner, but that’s a part-time job. “As soon as you think how you’re going to maintain your job, you’re part of the swamp.”

Wolfrum is pledging to serve only three terms. The number comes from discussions with voters who thought that was long enough.

He’d like to see term limits as well as a balanced budget amendment amended to the Constitution. Such a move should come through a convention of the states, not through Washington. He would like to see federal officials place some support of parameters on such a convention to keep it from getting out of hand.

Wolfrum said he agrees with President Trump’s approach to using the fate of DACA “Dreamers” as a negotiating tool to get an immigration deal.

Wolfrum said in the end he doesn’t expect any of the DACA recipients, who were brought to this county by parents who lacked the proper immigration documents, will be deported.

“I like that President Trump is trying to address the whole in thing in one big picture,” he said.

Wolfrum would like a system where those without documents can become legal residents. “I don’t think you can deport them all.”

And he’d like to streamline the immigration process, so entering legally is easier and facilitating screening of those who want to come in.

Robert Kreienkamp

Kreienkamp said Trump’s plan to build a wall is a waste of resources. The northern border is just as problematic in terms of human trafficking and illegal entry.

He is uncertain how to deal with DACA recipients. This is an issue, he said, he would listen closely to his constituents and defer to their judgment.

He would like to put together a database of 15,000 residents and poll them to maintain a sense of what those who live in the district want. “I will listen to people.  “I won’t I hide from them. I won’t run from them. I’ll listen to them.”

That, he said, is more important than specific stands on concerns of the day. “A year from now who knows what the issues will be.”

The repeal of the Affordable Care Act was one of the issues that he wants his voice heard on.

He questioned why Latta “voted for something was so much against the best interests of his constituents.”

The Congressional Budget Office, predicts the repeal will hike the cost of insurance 25 percent for those who have to purchase their insurance, including small business owners and farmers, and insurance may be very hard to find in a couple years.

“I think everything has the opportunity to be improved, but you can’t ignore half your people and come up with something that’s so important. Democrats did it under Obama. In both cases they were playing politics with people’s lives. We can’t do that.”

Kreienkamp also said as soon as Trump suggested tariffs “I would have stood up and howled from day one against them.”

“NAFTA was a godsend for farmers,” he said.

The imported steel helped keep the price of the machinery they need down and created markets for their products. The tariffs on steel “raise the price of steel, raise price of everything the farmer has to buy, and reduce the price of commodities.”

He also questioned how Latta could call himself a fiscal conservative and vote for a budget plan that raises the national debt to $1.5 trillion.

As far as the tax bill, Kreienkamp would like to see the cuts for individuals made permanent, and the cuts for corporations made contingent on whether they bring jobs back to the United States. “If you don’t make an investment in America, we shouldn’t make an investment in you.”

Kreienkamp said: “You have to stand up and take a stand, which is why I decided to run. I wanted my voice to be heard and this is about the only way for my voice to be heard. … That’s the whole goal of this campaign.”

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