Rep. Warren Davidson never planned to be in politics.
In 2016, he had never run for office. He had no name recognition, and he remembers laughing when someone proposed that he try for a vacant Ohio House seat that year.
But the businessman and former Army Ranger bounded into the national spotlight as the candidate who would succeed former House Speaker John Boehner in the district that the old-school Republican had represented for 25 years.
Six years later, Mr. Davidson has redefined the district north of Cincinnati as part of the sweeping reshaping of the Republican Party in the Trump era. From Mr. Davidson’s perspective, the party is finally catching up with its voters.
“People don’t want the status quo,” he told The Washington Times. “You’re looking at an institution that’s got a 12-15% approval rating, and people want to change it. At least in the House, [that message] is beginning to be received.”
When Mr. Davidson was elected to Congress in 2016, he was the first candidate supported by the newly-formed House Freedom Caucus.
The influential right-wing group, formed by nine conservative Republicans in 2015, led the charge in overthrowing the party establishment, which included ousting Mr. Boehner from his position as speaker over his reluctance to fast-track key campaign promises.
Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican and a founding member of the Freedom Caucus, referred to Mr. Davidson as “one of the smartest members of Congress,” and said his victory paved the way for the current success of the caucus.
“There were like 13 people in that race and we liked Warren. We helped Warren and we won the very first race we ever got involved in,” Mr. Jordan said. “That was just good for the Freedom Caucus as we were starting out.”
Mr. Jordan said Mr. Davidson is an example of someone who is conservative and can hold true to their values when they come to Washington, which motivated his support for his colleague.
While in Congress, Mr. Davidson has made fiscal policy his focus, creating the Sound Money Caucus, which is dedicated to maintaining the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency.
He voted with former President Donald Trump nearly 90% of the time and has voted about 7% of the time with Mr. Biden.
Mr. Davidson is seeking a fifth term and is expected to be a shoo-in for victory, according to David Niven, a political science professor at the University of Cincinnati.
“Davidson goes from one safe seat to another,” Mr. Niven said. “It’s a district that is absolutely designed to elect a Republican, and he can safely occupy that seat for as long as he wants.”
He will face Democrat Vanessa Enoch, a policy consultant, in November.
In the past six years, Mr. Davidson said, there’s been challenges in being compared with his predecessor or other colleagues. But with time, he has worked towards giving the district a new legacy.
“For a long time, people thought of it as Speaker Boehner’s district or people would say, ‘Well, you’re like Jim Jordan or not enough like Jim Jordan,’” Mr. Davidson said. “I’d just say ‘well, I’m not Jim Jordan and I’m not John Boehner. I’m Warren Davidson, nice to meet you, and you just do that over and over.”
Mr. Davidson’s reshaping of Ohio’s 8th District, which is comprised of Cincinnati suburbs and exurbs, signals a larger ongoing battle in the national Republican Party.
Elected the same year as Mr. Trump, the congressman said the party on its face is catching up to its base of voters, but there’s still frustration about the GOP’s inability to unite in the same way as Democrats.
Since leaving office, Mr. Boehner has called some members of the wing of his party that took credit for his resignation as “legislative terrorists” who tried to blow up the system.
More recently, Mr. Davidson criticized Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to back recently passed bipartisan gun legislation that would incentivize states to implement “red flag” laws and enhance background checks.
He also cited Rep. Liz Cheney, who was booted from GOP leadership last year, as someone who no longer represents the Republican Party’s agenda.
“Even in her campaign, she is trying to get Democrats to switch over to vote for her. She knows she no longer appeals to Republicans,” Mr. Davidson said.
Ms. Cheney is one of two vocal anti-Trump Republicans serving on the House panel investigating the 2021 Capitol riot. She has often criticized her party for becoming cult-like around the former president and embracing extremism.
Though Democrats have struggled with infighting between their liberal activist wing and the party’s more moderate members, few if any House Democrats fail to toe the leftwing line.
Mr. Davidson said that’s one aspect of Democrats that Republicans should take note of, even invoking that notion to voters at town hall meetings and other events.
“No one has ever said they think Republicans overreached or were too aggressive when implementing their agenda, but they all look at how aggressive Democrats have implemented theirs,” Mr. Davidson said. “When Democrats get elected, they go do the thing they campaigned on. A lot of Republican voters, in particular, feel very frustrated by that.”
That frustration has mirrored itself in this year’s midterm election, with Mr. Trump encouraging his base to throw out lawmakers who cast major votes against him.
The former president has zeroed in on the 10 House Republicans who voted for his second impeachment after the riot.
Several of those members have announced their retirements, while others face pro-Trump primary challengers.
House candidates running to the right against moderate Republicans have targeted incumbents on their votes to censure Mr. Trump, create a Jan. 6 commission, and help the Biden administration pass parts of its agenda, including the bipartisan infrastructure bill and gun reforms.
Despite inner-party challenges, Mr. Davidson said there’s an opportunity this year to pick up new voters, as the pull of the Democratic Party tilts further left.
He cited independents and pro-business Democrats as hopeful recruits for the GOP in a year where the party is bullish.
“Republicans have had an appeal to those folks, and we’re trying to both appeal to [our] base and pick up these people that the Democrats have abandoned,” Mr. Davidson said.