Rep. Schmidt Winding Down Her Political Career, Mum About What’s Nex

Schmidt winding down her political career, mum about what’s next
By DEIRDRE SHESGREEN

Gannett News Service
July 26, 2012 Thursday

WASHINGTON–Rep. Jean Schmidt’s most recent campaign finance report
is a window into her waning political career: The Miami Township
Republican ended June with just $152 in the bank. She collected six
campaign donations in three months. And while her House colleagues
have been cutting checks for TV ads and political consultants,
Schmidt’s expenses included items such as thank you letters.

In the nearly five months since Schmidt suffered a surprise defeat
in Ohio’s March 6 primary, the congresswoman has declined repeated
requests from Gannett’s Washington Bureau for an interview.

“She’s unavailable,” her spokesman, Barrett Brunsman, said last week.

Asked for a copy of her congressional schedule, Brunsman also declined
that request.

But while her media blackout and her campaign filings provide some
evidence of a wind-down in Schmidt’s tumultuous stint in Washington,
other signs point to a business-as-usual attitude. Allies say the
60-year-old lawmaker and marathon runner is not likely to fade from
the political scene, but there are few hints about what Schmidt might
do when her term expires in early January.

In the meantime, Schmidt seems to be cutting a low-profile — skipping
the press conference circuit but attending hearings, voting on the
House floor, and meeting with constituents. She was outside the
Supreme Court when the justices issued their historic ruling on the
health care reform law, screaming euphorically when she heard the
initial — and erroneous — reports that the ruling invalidated the
individual mandate.

She has also gone on two congressionally sponsored trips abroad: first
traveling with colleagues from the House Foreign Affairs Committee to
Taiwan and South Korea, and then going with House Democratic leader
Nancy Pelosi and others to Afghanistan and Qatar.

“She seems very active (and) engaged, as far as I can see,” said Rep.
Steve Chabot, R-Westwood, who serves on the Foreign Affairs panel
with Schmidt. “I see her on the floor voting and participating in
committee work.”

Another Ohio lawmaker, Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Lakeville, said that Schmidt
was clearly floored by her election defeat, but has bounced back
since then.

“I think right after the primary in March, it was a tough time,”
said Gibbs, who sits on the House transportation and agriculture
committees with Schmidt. But “she came back and from what I’ve been
able to tell, she’s been running around like she usually does.”

Schmidt made news recently when she opposed an amendment by
conservatives on the House Agriculture Committee that would have
doubled cuts to the food stamp program. She voted against those
reductions and implored her GOP colleagues to do the same, and was
part of a GOP-Democratic alliance that staved off the deeper cuts.

Schmidt also used that bill to press for more federal research and
stronger tools to combat pests that threaten plants and humans —
such as bed bugs and the Asian long-horned beetle. “My amendments
wouldaÂ[email protected]| ensure that products claiming to control bedbugs actually
work, and local health departments would get additional authority to
justify treatment of bedbug infestations,” Schmidt said in a statement
after the committee approved the farm bill.

Craig Regelbrugge, a lobbyist for the American Nursery and Landscape
Association’s PAC — one of Schmidt’s six donors in the last
fundraising quarter — said that while he has not meet with Schmidt
personally, her work on the farm bill suggests she has not slowed down,
despite her lame-duck status.

“I know she sat through the whole farm bill markup and it was an
endurance contest,” he said of the nearly 15-hour committee session.

“She does the endurance thing very well.”

It’s not clear what Schmidt would like her legacy in the U.S. House to
be. She continues to be dogged by ethical questions, with her latest
financial disclosure filing showing that she had received $582,768 in
legal fees over three years from the Turkish Coalition of America,@
funds deemed an improper gift by the House ethics committee last summer

At the end of 2011, she still owed at least $515,000 of those fees
— a tab stemming from her tangle with David Krikorian, an Armenian
American who challenged her in 2008 and again in the most recent
election. Her last legal expense trust filing showed she has only
raised one $5,000 donation to repay that debt.

Questions about her ties to the Turkish-American group contributed to
Schmidt’s defeat in March, when Republican challenger Brad Wenstrup
bested Schmidt for the GOP nomination. Wenstrup will face the
little-known William R. Smith in November’s general election. Smith
defeated Krikorian in the Democratic primary.

As her potential successors gird for the fall contest, Schmidt
has continued to make the rounds in the 2nd Congressional District
–attending constituent meetings and other events — without giving
any public hint about her future plans.

“She continues to be actively engaged and going about business as
usual,” said Ed Humphrey, a Clermont County Commissioner who has
known Schmidt for two decades. He said Schmidt came to his grandson’s
high school graduation party last month, delivering a congressional
proclamation to congratulate the college-bound boy on a scholarship
he won.

But Humphrey said they didn’t talk much politics, not touching on
either her primary defeat or her political future. Instead they talked
about “her family, my family,” he said.

Chabot and others similarly said they don’t know what the congresswoman
might be planning come January. But her friends and foes alike agree
that Schmidt isn’t likely to fade into the woodwork.

“Jean is not at an age where I think retirement is something she would
do for the long term,” said Tim Burke, chairman of the Hamilton County
Democratic Party. “There are lots of options open for her.”

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