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Ohio Republican Boehner Picked as Majority Leader

Republican Rep. John Boehner of Ohio was elected House majority leader Thursday, replacing the indicted Rep. Tom DeLay.

Boehner defeated Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, 122-109, on the second ballot. Blunt -- the majority whip -- had been serving as the acting majority leader and was considered the front runner in the race to replace DeLay.

In fact, Blunt had a big lead in votes after the first ballot. But when the third candidate -- John Shadegg of Arizona -- dropped out of the race, the votes needed to win swung to Boehner.

Boehner, flanked by Speaker Dennis Hastert and other members of the leadership (including Blunt, who will remain as whip), said Republicans will "rededicate ourselves to dealing with big issues that the American people expect us to deal with" -- such as pocketbook and national security issues.

Boehner, 56, campaigned as a candidate of reform, and said his experience as chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce had demonstrated his ability to pass major legislation. As chairman, he helped shepherd President Bush's No Child Left Behind education bill through the House.

The low-key leadership of House Speaker Dennis Hastert -- and the dark cloud left over Congress by both the DeLay indictment and Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal -- give Boehner a chance to put his own imprint on the post.

This is not the Ohio Republican's first turn in the House leadership. Boehner was part of the group that Newt Gingrich led in crafting the Contract with America for the 1994 elections. When the Republicans swept to power, Boehner was rewarded.

"It really boils down to one word: credibility," Boehner said in 1995 after the newly Republican House had worked through most of the items on its Contract with America. "As a political party, we've kept our word. We've done exactly what we said we would do and we're going to keep our word and earn the trust of the American people for this institution, and for our political party."

Boehner served as the House Republican Conference chairman starting in 1995. But in 1998 Boehner, a Gingrich ally and no friend of Tom DeLay's, was pushed aside. He was thought to be ineffective at selling the party's policies to the public.

Now Boehner's distance from the indicted DeLay has turned into an asset that, combined with his personal popularity among members, has put him back into the leadership.

"I've got a long record of reforming Congress," Boehner recently said on Fox News Sunday. "And I think that we need more reforms to make sure that there's transparency in the relationship between those who lobby us and members and staffs."

Boehner is seen as a clear enough voice for reform to credibly present a new face to the public, without threatening a complete revolution in how the House is run.

The new majority leader's roots are in Ohio. He grew up in Cincinnati, attended college there at Xavier and now lives in the northern suburb of West Chester.

After graduating with a degree in business from Xavier, Boehner went to work in 1977 for Nucite Sales, where he eventually rose to the post of president.

His political career began in local politics as a township trustee in 1982. He moved from local into state politics when he was elected as a representative to the Ohio legislature in 1984. Boehner joined the House of Representatives in 1990.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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