The Jim Jordan Seen in Congress Is the One Constituents Know in Ohio

Six members of the Champaign County Preservation Alliance were touring the picturesque downtown in Urbana, the central Ohio town where Representative Jim Jordan has made his mark as a state champion wrestler, a lawyer, and now a member of Congress.

As they watched his bid to finally end the tortured efforts to choose a new House speaker by seizing the gavel, the figure he casts nationally is much the uncompromising same as back home in the heavily gerrymandered, largely Republican district that snakes and loops through hundreds of miles of mainly small towns and farmland.

Amanda McDaniel, a member of the preservation alliance, is rooting for Jordan’s speaker bid — seeing in him the same principles she holds.

“He shares the same conservative values that I do,” said Ms. McDaniel, a 60-year-old retiree.

She said she was not troubled by criticism of Mr. Jordan, both as a politician and not: his failure to pass any legislation in the House as well as claims, which he denies, that he turned a blind eye to sexual abuse by a team physician as an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State.

Like other supporters, she is comfortable with the populist outsider that Mr. Jordan has been since his days in the Ohio General Assembly some three decades ago.

It is not an approach that builds consensus — a previous Republican speaker to brand him a “legislative terrorist” — even as he has steadily parlayed it into political success.

“I really hope he does not become speaker,” said Katie Porter, 30, another member of the alliance, who called him too divisive. Ms. Porter added that she disagreed with Mr. Jordan’s hard-line opposition to abortion and believed he now spends too much time in Washington, where he helped establish the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus.

Mr. Jordan embraced right-wing populism long before the Tea Party or Donald Trump made into a national force. In the early 2000s, Mr. Jordan drew grimaces from Republican leaders of the legislature for opposing a sales-tax increase that even party stalwarts agreed was needed to close a budget gap. But when budget problems prompted the state in 2003 to close the Lima Correctional Facility, a state prison in Mr. Jordan’s State Senate district, he railed against the resulting job losses — without mentioning that he had voted against the state budget that would have kept the prison open.

“Jim wasn’t known for consensus-building and legislation-passing,” said Brian Seaver, who inherited Mr. Jordan’s seat in the Ohio House of Representatives when Mr. Jordan ascended to the State Senate in 2000. “He wasn’t known as a collaborator. He was going to push his belief system, first and foremost.”

At the Urbana Brewing Company on Tuesday, patrons gave Mr. Jordan passing marks. Eric Forson, 50, said that when he wrote to his elected representatives during the 2013 government shutdown, Mr. Jordan was the only one who responded.

“He met me at a coffee shop in town, and we talked, I thought that was really nice,” Mr. Forson said.

Most people in Urbana have a Jim Jordan story, often suggesting that he isn’t as strident in person as he is in public. “If you interact with him in person, he’s not like he is on TV,” said Missy Esch, a 55-year-old retiree.

Ms. Esch and her husband, Mike, 57 were both hopeful that Mr. Jordan would drum up the votes needed to take the speaker role on Wednesday.

“If not him, who else? Mike Esch said. “They need to elect someone. As an American, this is embarrassing.”

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