Both parties scrambled Tuesday to assess their prospects in the 14th district in the wake of Rep. Steven LaTourette’s surprise retirement.
With the GOP Congressman’s decision to delay his retirement long enough to avoid a special primary, Republicans were confident that they could choose a successor capable of holding the moderately GOP-leaning district in November.
But Ohio Democrats are moving to replace their nominee, Dale Blanchard, with a top-tier contender, and whether they’re successful could determine their ability to put this winnable seat in play.
The district’s county GOP chairmen are expected to select a ballot replacement. If LaTourette’s retirement is official on or just after Aug. 8, county GOP leaders would have until the middle of this month to make their choice.
Republican sources familiar with Buckeye State politics said the county parties in Northeastern Ohio’s 14th district are well-organized, and they expect the GOP chairmen there to move swiftly and professionally to identify potential candidates and choose a nominee. The Republicans mentioned include former state Sens. Kevin Coughlin and Tim Grendell, former state Rep. Matt Dolan, Geauga County Prosecutor David Joyce, Lake County Judge Vince Culotta and state Sen. Frank LaRose.
“I know that I’ve put my party in a somewhat precarious position, and I apologize for that, in that I was nominated in the primary,” LaTourette said Tuesday during a news conference in Ohio, where he announced he would not seek a 10th term despite winning the March 6 primary.
Ohio Republicans expect Speaker John Boehner to play a key role in picking LaTourette’s replacement, given his position as a top state party leader and that the new nominee’s campaign is likely to be significantly financed by money he raises.
But some Republican operatives in Washington, D.C., predicted Boehner would take a hands-off approach on the grounds that the local county parties running the selection process have strong leadership.
“These are some of our best organized counties,” Ohio Republican consultant Barry Bennett said. “These guys fight for their lives, so they get it.”
Neither the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee nor the Ohio Democratic Party could comment specifically on any effort to persuade Blanchard to drop his candidacy so that he could be replaced in similar fashion with a viable candidate. If Blanchard does drop out, expect Democrats to invest in this seat, which is considered a perfect fit for the moderate LaTourette but highly competitive without him.