In a move that blindsided everyone, Congressman Steve LaTourette (Oh-14) is expected to announce his retirement from Congress at his Painesville office within the hour. LaTourette, who has served nine terms, represents Ohio’s northeastern corner, including Lake, Ashtabula, Geauga and, after next year, part of Cuyahoga County.
There’s rampant speculation about what’s behind LaTourette’s move. Although he’s a deeply conservative Republican, the party’s move to the far right leaves him stranded at its left fringe, appearing in many peoples’ eyes to be a moderate. So perhaps he felt out of step with his party today. Reports suggest he was sulking about his committee assignments. But it’s also quite possible that LaTourette, who is only 58, saw the opportunity to cash in as a lobbyist. And his disinterest in his district has been obvious for years. Since leaving his first wife for a young D.C.-based lobbyist eight years ago, he’s come back to Ohio only occasionally. He’ll probably need help finding Painesville today.
With the primary long past, Republican leadership in the district’s counties will replace him on the ballot. And while this swing district is considered a ripe pickup opportunity for Democrats — if only the popular LaTourette wasn’t running — it won’t happen this year. Given LaTourette’s regular margins of victory, the Democrats ceded the field this year to perennial candidate Dale Blanchard, who was crushed by LaTourette in 2002 and lost to other Democrats in four straight primaries from 2004-2010, finishing last in the field three of those times.