Rep. Bob Latta (R)
Ohio 5th District
Undergirded by limestone, as flat and fertile as any place in America, northwest Ohio was economically productive from the time it was settled. Parts of it were known as the “Firelands,” reserved for Connecticut Yankees whose farms were burned in the Revolution, and neat and substantial small towns were built by German Protestants in the mid-19th century. Northwest Ohio is the beginning of the great corn and hog belt that stretches through Indiana and Illinois into Iowa, and has long been a Republican heartland. Fremont, settled by abstemious Yankees, was the home of President Rutherford B. Hayes, whose wife, Lucy, served only lemonade in the White House. Nearby Sandusky was settled by Germans who built big wineries and breweries.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
This is also prime industrial country. Its limestone, rail connections and location near the Great Lakes have spurred the growth of a factory economy that financially is far more important than agriculture. After the first settlement, northwest Ohio grew steadily for many decades, surging ahead in the 1950s and 1960s as its small factories supplied the big auto plants in Detroit and in cities in Ohio. Growth lagged noticeably in the 1980s, when the domestic auto industry collapsed, but rebounded somewhat as small firms sold not only to the Big Three but to foreign customers. That gave this area the highest percentage of blue-collar workers in the state. Honda has dozens of suppliers in the area, though many parts companies continue to cut back with the continuing financial troubles of the domestic auto industry.
The 5th Congressional District of Ohio sweeps across northwest Ohio, from northern Ashland County, almost within the ambit of metro Cleveland, across the limestone plains through Sandusky County and Fremont, past the university town of Bowling Green and the Toledo suburb of Perrysburg, to the towns of Defiance and Napoleon and on to the northwest corner where Ohio borders Michigan and Indiana. Its factories include the aromatic Heinz ketchup plant in Fremont—the world’s largest, with the equivalent of 4 million 14-ounce bottles produced every day—and the largest Whirlpool washing machine plant in Clyde, both in Sandusky County. Bowling Green is the site of the state’s first wind turbines and gets about 20% of its electricity from renewable sources. Locals now call it “Blowing Green.” Historically, this has been a solidly Republican district since the Civil War. President George W. Bush won it 61%-39% in 2004, and Republican nominee John McCain won it 53% to 45% in 2008.
Rep. Bob Latta (R)
Elected: Dec. 2007, 1st full term.
Born: April 18, 1956, Bluffton .
Home: Bowling Green.
Education: Bowling Green St. U., B.A., 1978, U. of Toledo Col. of Law, J.D., 1981..
Family: Married (Marcie); 2 children.
Elected office: Wood Cnty. commissioner, 1991-96, Ohio Senate, 1997-2001, Ohio Gen. Assembly, 2001-07.
Professional Career: Attorney, 1981-1991.
The congressman from the 5th District is Bob Latta, a Republican who won a special election for the seat in 2007. Latta is the son of Delbert Latta, who held the seat for 30 years, from 1959 to 1989). Bob Latta was born in Ohio but split his early years between his native Bluffton, Ohio and Washington. Growing up helping in his father’s campaigns, Latta says he learned the business of catering to constituents. Young Latta was frequently interrupted during his homework to answer their phone calls and remembers his father following up with federal agencies to try to get results from the vast government bureaucracy. Latta also spent time driving around the district with his dad, going to meetings and events. During college at Bowling Green State University, Latta volunteered in his father’s office, where he met his wife, Marcia, who worked for his father.
|Bob Latta (R)||188,905||(64%)||($2,051,669)|
|George Mays (D)||105,840||(36%)|
|Bob Latta (R)||54,093||(75%)|
|Scott Radcliffe (R)||12,347||(17%)|
|Michael Reynolds (R)||5,873||(8%)|
|Bob Latta (R)||56,114||(57%)|
|Robin Weirauch (D)||42,229||(43%)|
|Bob Latta (R)||32,392||(44%)|
|Steve Buehrer (R)||29,850||(40%)|
|Mark Hollenbaugh (R)||4,955||(7%)|
|Fred Pieper (R)||4,252||(6%)|
He graduated from law school at the University of Toledo, and his father had one bit of career advice for him: Don’t get into politics. Bob Latta did his best to follow that guidance, and practiced law for several years. But when his father announced his retirement from Congress in 1988, the 31-year-old couldn’t pass on the opportunity to try to follow in his footsteps. However, he first had to get by Paul Gillmor, a Republican state senator who had been waiting for a congressional seat to open up during Del Latta’s long tenure. In the primary contest with Gillmor, Bob Latta argued that, like his father, he would start out young and eventually gain enough seniority to preside over powerful committees. After a spirited race, Gillmor beat Latta by just 27 votes out of 57,361 cast. With the close loss behind him, Latta focused on local politics, first getting elected to the Wood County Commission, and then to the Ohio Legislature, where he served in both the Senate and the state General Assembly. One of his major efforts was to repeal the Ohio estate tax, which he succeeded in doing for 78% of Ohioans, although the tax was not eliminated entirely. An avid hunter, Latta also championed conservation issues, including lengthening hunting seasons and expanding wildlife reserves.
On Sept. 5, 2007, Gillmor died at his Washington home, apparently from a fall down stairs. Latta got into the contest for a successor, but had to overcome a brutal Republican primary fight and a Democratic challenger heavily financed by the national party. As the primary field took shape, Gillmor’s wife, Karen, briefly considered running for her late husband’s seat, but ultimately declined. Latta’s major primary opponent was state Sen. Steve Buehrer, who was backed by the national anti-tax group Club for Growth, which spent $290,000 in Beuhrer’s behalf. Club for Growth ran several ads attacking Latta as an advocate of higher taxes to increase public school funding. Latta attacked Buehrer for accepting donations from a former fundraiser for President George W. Bush in Ohio, Tom Noe, a convicted money launderer. But it came to light that Latta had also taken money from Noe. In the end, Latta defeated Buehrer by only 2,542 votes out of 74,191 cast.
His Democratic opponent, Robin Weirauch, a former public administrator who had twice run against Gillmor, had backing from national labor unions and the fundraising group EMILY’s list. She also got the endorsements of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and Gov. Ted Strickland, both prominent Ohio Democrats. She attacked Latta on economic issues and on his support for the Iraq war. Still, despite Weirauch’s best efforts to capitalize on the anti-incumbent, anti-Washington sentiment in the country that year, she came up short in the solidly Republican district. Latta won 57%-43%.
In the House, Latta joined the Republicans’ House Energy Action Team and made energy independence his central issue. He supports new oil refineries, new nuclear power plants and tax incentives for commercial ventures using clean coal, hydrogen, wind, solar and biofuels. His bill calling for increased domestic production and offshore drilling as well as expanded reliance on renewable and alternative sources became one of the GOP’s main alternatives to Democratic proposals. Latta dubbed it the “all of the above” strategy to solving the country’s energy shortage. He opposes the proposed “cap and trade” system that would set pollution limits on companies but let them swap credits when they need to increase their output of carbon emissions. He says such a law would hurt American industry during tough financial times.
In early 2009, Latta became an assistant whip, part of a leadership group that helps whip up support for the House Republicans’ agenda.