Rep. John Yarmuth (D)
Elected: 2006, 2nd term.
Born: Nov. 4, 1947, Louisville .
Education: Yale U., B.A. 1969, attended Georgetown, 1972-74, attended U. of Louisville, 1975.
Family: Married (Catherine); 1 child.
Professional Career: Stockbroker, 1969-71; Sr. aide, U.S. Sen. Marlow Cook, 1971-74; Publisher, Louisville Today magazine, 1976-82; Asst. vp of university relations, U. of Louisville, 1983-86; VP, Caretenders, 1986-90; Owner, columnist & executive editor, Louisville Eccentric Observer, 1990-2002; Co-host, Yarmuth & Ziegler, 2003; Commentator, Hot Button, 2004-05.
The congressman from the 3rd District is John Yarmuth, who won the district in 2006 by defeating five-term Republican Anne Northup. Yarmuth never held elected office before, but had spent four years as a Senate aide and more than two decades as a newspaper editor, publisher, and columnist. He comes from a wealthy family. His father, Stanley Yarmuth, founded National Industries, a conglomerate that started as a used car business; his maternal grandfather, Samuel Klein, ran the Bank of Louisville. John Yarmuth grew up in Louisville and went to Atherton High School, where he was elected student government president. After graduating from Yale University in 1969, he worked briefly as a stockbroker and then as an aide to Republican Sen. Marlow Cook. Yarmuth attended two years of law school but didn’t finish his degree. In 1976, he founded Louisville Today magazine, and served as publisher until 1982. He ran unsuccessfully for Louisville alderman in 1975, and for county commissioner in 1981. He worked in public relations from 1983 to 1990 for the University of Louisville and for a health care company. Unhappy with the policies of President Reagan and the Republican Party, Yarmuth switched his party affiliation to Democrat in 1985. (He says he first registered as a Republican as a favor to his father, who was a fundraiser for President Nixon.) In 1990, Yarmuth founded the Louisville Eccentric Observer, a free newsweekly popularly known as LEO, and for the next 15 years, penned a column called “Hot Coals” that promoted his mostly liberal views. He sold the publication in 2003, but continued his column and also did political commentary on television.
|John Yarmuth (D)||203,843||(59%)||($2,138,457)|
|Anne Northup (R)||139,527||(41%)||($1,708,081)|
|John Yarmuth (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (51%)
In 2006, Northup was again vulnerable in this Democratic-leaning district, which she’d fought hard to keep by bringing in millions of dollars in federal funds from her perch on the House Appropriations Committee. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee touted attorney Andrew Horne, an Iraq War veteran and first-time candidate. But Yarmuth raised more money and proved a more formidable candidate than Horne, winning the four-way primary 54%-32%. He called for an immediate pullout of troops from Iraq and referred to Northup as a “rubber stamp” for President Bush. Northup campaigned on the Republican tax cuts and her work for the district. Yarmuth ran on his support for universal health coverage, a minimum-wage increase and revamping the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind education law.
The mother of six children, Northup suffered a wrenching personal tragedy during the campaign when her son died of an undiagnosed heart condition. She suspended her campaign for six weeks before returning to campaigning at the end of the summer. Then she unleashed a radio, television and Internet offensive that blasted Yarmuth for his liberal writings. She charged that Yarmuth supported doubling payroll taxes, removing the phrase “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance and legalizing marijuana. Northup raised nearly $3.4 million to Yarmuth’s $2.3 million, which included $700,000 of his own money. Northup, who carried the district while Bush lost it in 2000 and 2004, could not overcome a national tide against Republicans that year, an environment made worse locally by a patronage scandal surrounding Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher. Yarmuth won 51%-48%.
In the House, Yarmuth is generally a moderate Democrat, though he is more liberal on foreign policy issues and more conservative on economic issues. When he was on the Education and Labor Committee in 2007 and 2008, he pressed for changes in the No Child Left Behind Act that would let states decide whether schools are meeting the law’s requirements, which make federal funds contingent on students achieving proficiency on standardized tests. He also sponsored provisions in a higher-education bill to pay for more special education training for teachers and to forgive loans to teachers. He won House approval of his amendment to require Iraq to defray the costs of American troops stationed there. With his journalism background, Yarmuth co-sponsored a federal shield bill for news reporters and joined a “messaging” group that advises Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders on media strategy. As he promised, he donated his congressional salary to Louisville-area community groups.
Northup came back for a rematch in 2008, after losing a primary challenge to Fletcher for governor. She criticized Yarmuth for supporting 2008’s $700 billion bailout for the financial markets, and also attacked his “present” vote on a resolution honoring Christmas, asserting he’d lost touch with his constituents. (Yarmuth is Jewish.) Even though Northup raised more money than Yarmuth, he had a much easier time than in 2006, winning 59%-41%.
A scratch golfer who once played as many as 100 rounds of golf a year, Yarmuth says that the demands of Congress prompted him to scale back his plans to spend a month every year at a home he recently built near a golf course in Ireland.