It's not a good year to be a Republican, the congressman says.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- U.S. Rep. Steven C. LaTourette said he'll spend about 1 million to make sure he's re-elected to Congress even though his internal polls show him with a comfortable lead.
LaTourette, a Concord Township Republican, said the anti-Republican climate in Ohio could impact his race in the 14th Congressional District -- and he's not taking any chances.
Democrat Lewis Katz of Pepper Pike, a Case Western Reserve University law professor, and Werner Lange of Newton Falls, an independent candidate who teaches at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania, are challenging LaTourette, a six-term incumbent.
Katz has never run for political office, and Lange has never won an election. LaTourette has a huge financial advantage over the two challengers and says internal campaign polling has him ahead by about 20 percentage points.
"It's hard to be a Republican this year," LaTourette told The Vindicator on Monday. "The top of the ticket is collapsing around us. It's going south for Republicans. We can't take anything for granted."
LaTourette said internal polling done last week shows Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, the Republican gubernatorial nominee, losing by at least 20 percent in his district. Also, the polling shows "it's soured a little bit" in the district for U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine, the Republican incumbent being challenged by U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, LaTourette said.
The 14th District includes seven northern townships in Trumbull County as well as all of Ashtabula, Geauga and Lake counties, and portions of Portage, Cuyahoga and Summit counties.
Also not helping matters, but to a much lesser extent, LaTourette said, is the well-publicized scandals surrounding Mark Foley and Bob Ney.
LaTourette said he knew Foley, of Florida, who recently resigned from the House because of e-mails of a sexual nature he sent to underage House page boys, was a "closet gay member of Congress." But LaTourette said he had no idea about Foley's e-mails to the pages.
The congressman also said he believes Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert probably didn't know about this issue because he has four advisers who are gay and they kept the Foley information from him.
LaTourette already has run commercials on cable television and will air advertisements on cable and network TV during these final three weeks of the campaign.
LaTourette is the only Republican representing Northeast Ohio. National Democrats unsuccessfully tried to persuade Lake County Commissioner Dan Troy, and state Reps. Timothy Cassell and Lorraine Fende of Lake County to run for the seat, LaTourette said.
About CAFTA vote
Katz and Lange have criticized LaTourette for his vote in July 2005 for the Central America Free Trade Agreement. LaTourette cast the deciding vote for the bill that passed 217-215.
LaTourette opposed the agreement until talking to Tom Chieffe, the head of KraftMaid, a kitchen cabinet maker and one of the largest employers in the 14th District.
Chieffe said the agreement would eliminate a plywood tariff that was hurting his business, LaTourette said. The problem is the plywood comes from Brazil, which is not a country impacted by CAFTA.