Why did LaTourette quit?

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Romney’s field office: The presidential campaign of Republican Mitt Romney will open a field office today at 4:30 p.m. in the Eastwood Mall in Niles with Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, the GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate, speaking at the event. Romney’s campaign has field offices in the Mahoning and Columbiana counties Republican party offices.

Members of Fight for a Fair Economy Ohio, a group organized by the Service Employees International Union, will be outside the mall protesting from 4 to 6 p.m.

Romney’s Mahoning County field office will hold a breakfast at 9 a.m. Saturday at 621 Boardman-Canfield Road, also the county GOP headquarters. After that, volunteers will make phone calls and go door-to-door in support of Romney.

Also, high school and college students interested in being interns for Romney’s Mahoning County campaign can call party headquarters at 330-629-7006 or David Warren, Romney’s Mahoning County field representative, at 614-378-0190.

Tax-cut letter: Youngstown Council President Jamael Tito Brown was among 19 Democratic officeholders in Ohio to sign a letter to the Republican speaker of the U.S. House urging a vote in favor of keeping the middle-class tax cut.

U.S. Rep. Steven C. LaTourette’s decision to quit his re-election race will leave a gap in the state’s congressional delegation.

The longest-serving Republican House member from Ohio has a dry wit and sharp mind.

LaTourette, a nine-term Republican from Bainbridge, isn’t afraid to vote against his party’s position.

In an age when you’re either far-right or far-left, LaTourette, R-14th, is considered a moderate Republican who works with Democrats, particularly those in northeast Ohio.

LaTourette denied reports that he was not going to run for re-election because of a dispute on committee assignments.

But I’ve heard from a few insiders — as have other journalists — that LaTourette wanted to return to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee as its chairman.

But LaTourette didn’t have the support from his own party for that appointment. The primary reason, I’ve been told, is Republican leadership doesn’t share his pro-labor-union positions, and his opposition to repealing the Davis-Bacon Act on prevailing wages.

LaTourette said federal politics have become too partisan for him and few in Congress look to find “common ground” to work together. He misses how Congress worked during his early days there.

How much has Congress changed since LaTourette started serving in 1995?

“I remember a number of folks were uncomfortable with how conservative Steve LaTourette was when he was first elected,” said Steve Brooks, associate director of the University of Akron’s Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics. “Now he’s considered a moderate.”

Brooks said Congress is currently “much more polarized” than at any time in recent history. “The redistricting process has made it much more comfortable for a far-end candidate to remain in office.”

Trumbull County Republican Party Chairwoman Kathi Creed — one of 14 people who will choose LaTourette’s GOP replacement to seek the seat during the general election — said she’s “sorry he’s leaving” even though “I didn’t agree with him on everything.”

Creed describes herself as “very conservative, fiscally and socially,” implying LaTourette doesn’t share her views.

But LaTourette’s support in his seven-county district has been exceptionally strong even though it’s technically a swing district.

“He was very popular with Lake County Democrats,” said Dale Virgil Blanchard, the Democratic nominee in the 14th District, who lost eight previous congressional races.

Republicans are exceptionally fortunate that Democrats have struggled to find electable candidates to challenge LaTourette over the years.

This year is no exception. Blanchard was the only Democrat to file for the race.

If his track record is any indication, Blanchard has no chance of winning.

Democrats want Blanchard out so they can replace him with a viable candidate. But Blanchard says he’s not withdrawing.

Plenty of Republicans are interested in succeeding LaTourette. Geauga County Prosecutor David P. Joyce is the early front-runner.

With LaTourette’s retirement, Democrats will likely look for a strong candidate in the 2014 election in that district.

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