Ohio Republican Rep. LaTourette retires, citing acrimony in Washington

Rachel Rose Hartman
The Ticket

Ohio Republican Rep. Steve LaTourette announced Tuesday that he's sick of Washington and has decided to retire.

"Washington and public life … is not the same as it was when I started a quarter century ago," the longtime moderate lawmaker said at a press conference in Painesville, Ohio.

"The atmosphere today and the reality that exists no longer encourages common ground," he later added.

LaTourette revealed he will officially announce his retirement Wednesday Aug. 8 instead of continuing with his campaign for a 10th term. State law directs party leaders to choose his replacement.

LaTourette conceded that his decision, given that he had already won his party's nomination in the 14th District, leaves his party in a "somewhat precarious position, and I apologize for that."

News broke late Monday that LaTourette would make a surprise retirement announcement Tuesday.

Anonymous sources told various news outlets that LaTourette had been prompted to leave due to a dispute over committee assignments, and another report suggested the congressman was in ill health. LaTourette's office refused to comment.

But LaTourette knocked down both of those rumors directly Tuesday, saying he supports the new chairman of the Transportation Committee, Pennsylvania Rep. Bill Shuster, is pleased to be serving on the Appropriations Committee, is not sick and does not have insurmountable problems with House Speaker John Boehner, whom LaTourette identified as a friend.

LaTourette expressed annoyance that news of his retirement had been leaked the previous day.

He said many supporters, Republican and Democrat, called him last night and "suggested this was a mistake." But LaTourette said he believed that since he didn't want to serve another term, this was the "cleanest way" to exit, avoiding a special election and allowing his replacement to serve a full two-year term.

The 14th District, which encompasses the northeastern tip of the state, is considered competitive territory. Democrat Dale Blanchard won his party's nomination for the seat in March.

Boehner (R-Ohio) expressed confidence Tuesday in Republican odds of retaining LaTourette's district. "Republicans are in good position to hold this seat, and I am confident that Steve's legacy will continue on as northeast Ohioans elect a new representative this November to fight for a stronger economy and a more accountable government," Boehner said in a statement.

That sentiment was echoed by National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas), who said in a statement that "voters in northeast Ohio have consistently supported Republicans in this district."

Democrats on Tuesday argued LaTourette's decision is part of a larger trend of moderate Republicans rejecting extreme conservatives in the House.

"The Tea Party Republican Majority now has a sign outside their meeting room-- no moderates allowed," Jesse Ferguson spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said in a statement.