Latta Steps Into Dad’s House Seat

Posted December 12, 2007 at 6:14pm

Rep.-elect Bob Latta (R-Ohio) just fulfilled his decades-long ambition to become a Member of Congress.

On Tuesday, he won the seat his father held for decades — the same one he lost by just 27 votes two decades ago to Paul Gillmor (R), who represented the northwest Ohio district until his sudden death in September.

And after routing three-time Democratic nominee Robin Weirauch in what most Washington, D.C., insiders thought would be a much closer race, where is Latta going to go?

Not to Disneyland. Instead, he’s going to Columbus, Ohio, to fulfill his final duties as state Representative.

Latta has never missed a vote and had no plans of breaking that record on his last day in office, according to his campaign manager, Matthew Parker. After declaring victory in Tuesday night’s special election, he drove to Columbus on Wednesday for one final day of voting in the state Capitol.

The Congressman-elect could be sworn in as early as today, Parker said, and is interested in serving on committees that deal with taxes or financial matters.

“He has a passion for taxes and spending issues and financial services,” Parker said. “Those are his top priorities. Those are obviously committees that are sought after by a lot of Members, but he’s happy to get out there and start serving his constituents a soon as possible.”

Latta won with 57 percent of the vote compared with 2004 and 2006 Democratic nominee Weirauch’s 43 percent. Many Washington political observers expected the race to be much closer after the national campaign committees started dumping cash into the race.

Republican media consultant Matt Leonardo, who does work for the National Republican Congressional Committee but did not work on this particular race, said the nasty Republican primary between Latta and state Sen. Steve Buehrer gave Democrats an opening.

“I think it was a very tough primary,” Leonardo said. “And no question the primary probably impacted [Latta] on the ballot right out of the blocks, hence why the Democrats were so eager to try and pull and upset. Democrats really thought they could have won.”

Or at the very least, cash-flushed Democrats thought they could get House Republicans to spend a significant chunk of their meager financial resources on the race.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee started the spending spree that ended with $243,700 of its cash put in the race. The NRCC’s independent expenditure put almost twice that amount in the race: $443,300, or about 17 percent of the $2.56 million in cash on hand that the committee had at the end of October.

DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) noted in a statement that the NRCC had to make a significant investment in the special election to retain a strong district for Republicans.

“National Republicans, right wing special interest groups, and 527’s, like Freedom’s Watch, are alive and well in Republican House races,” Van Hollen said. “They poured more than $500,000 in to save Bob Latta in a 39 percent Democratic performing district.”

But it was a special election that national Republicans couldn’t afford to lose. Coming off a landslide year for Democrats in 2006 and heading into a presidential election cycle, Republicans had to hold onto that seat at any price.

According to one Washington, D.C., GOP operative, Republicans thought the race would be much closer than the final tally. The operative said there was “no question” the NRCC’s intervention into the Latta campaign saved the race for Republicans.

“Let’s be honest … the campaign was in deep trouble,” said the Republican. “I think they did come in and save Bob. Clearly the DCCC wouldn’t have come in if they didn’t think they could pull this out.”

Leonardo agreed, saying Democrats would not have gotten behind Weirauch if she did not have a chance of winning, and have been bloodied as a result.

“I think that they did look at some data and they thought they could win and pull off an upset,” he said. “At the end of the day, they gambled big and it was an upset.”