Congress can least afford to lose a Steven LaTourette

When this newspaper endorsed U.S. Rep. Steven LaTourette for re-election to Congress in 2008, we took note of something he said during his endorsement interview that year.

LaTourette, who by then had served seven terms in Congress, said he would stand by each of the 11,000 votes he had cast in the U.S. House of Representatives. In a political age that has given new meaning to “flip flop,” LaTourette stood out then, and he stands out today.

It appears that LaTourette’s willingness to stand behind his past votes and cast his future votes based on his view of how he could best represent his constituents was part of his undoing.

LaTourette announced last week that despite his having won the Republican nomination for the 14th Congressional District, he was withdrawing his name from the November ballot.

We don’t believe LaTourette has changed much, but politics have changed around him. Few could question that when this former Lake County prosecutor ran for Congress in 1994 that he was a bona fide conservative. Today, LaTourette is seen as a moderate — and even worse to some, as a compromiser.

Pragmatic and smart

But even as LaTourette was willing to stand behind his past votes, he was committed to pursuing a pragmatic politics that was summed up in a few sentences during his press conference in Painesville: “It used to be there was Election Day and then there was governance. You fight like cats and dogs on election time and then you govern. ... For a long time now, words like compromise have been considered to be dirty words. And there are people on the right and the left who think that if you compromise, you’re a coward, you’re a facilitator, you’re an appeaser.”

So rather than cast votes under pressure from the party that he could not defend, and rather than flail about as one of the few guys left in the middle, LaTourette is leaving Congress.

That is a loss for the 14th District, which includes a portion of northern Trumbull County. It is a loss for the Ohio delegation, which is sorely in need of representatives who value governance over partisanship. And it is loss for the nation, which needs more, not fewer, men and women who remember what it was like for 435 representatives to work together for the common good.

Over the years, LaTourette has supported American industry, sensible tax policy, deficit reduction, fair trade policies and funding for rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure. Not all of his constituents are going to agree with all of his votes, but every one of them should be alarmed that LaTourette’s sensible approach to solutions could put him so far outside the congressional mainstream that he feels compelled to walk away.

The last close election LaTourette faced was his first, when he barely beat incumbent Eric Fingerhut. He would have likely gotten seven votes out of every 10 cast this November in a district that is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. That would have been a testament to the appreciation voters have for a man of principle. That LaTourette chose 2012 as the year to retire is an indictment of special interest politics and hyper partisanship.

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