Nine-term GOP Rep. Steve LaTourette’s unexpected retirement announcement in July 2012 touched off a major scramble. Northeastern Ohio Republicans quickly coalesced around veteran prosecutor David Joyce, who benefited from a weak Democratic opponent in a district that is a fairly evenly split politically.
Joyce, the third of four children in a deeply religious Irish-Catholic family, is the son of a coal salesman. In high school, he ran track and played defensive tackle and fullback on the football team. At one point in his youth he considered the priesthood, but he instead studied accounting at the University of Dayton. In 1982, he earned a law degree, expecting to get a job at one of the Big Eight accounting firms. But during interviews with potential employers, he was told he would have little opportunity for trial work, so he took a job as a public defender in Cuyahoga County, eventually moving to nearby Geauga County.
Joyce rose through the ranks quickly and in 1988, at age 30, was elected as the youngest prosecutor in the county’s history. During the campaign for prosecutor he met his future wife, Kelly, a nurse, through a friend of his brother’s. He recalled in an interview that she introduced herself by calling his campaign mailers “hokey.”
As prosecutor, Joyce collaborated with LaTourette, who was then the prosecutor in neighboring Lake County, on a locally famous murder case involving a cult leader, as well as on a failed effort in 1990 to ban from record stores an album by the hip-hop group 2 Live Crew. Joyce did phone-banking for then-Cleveland Mayor George Voinovich’s reelection bid in 1983 and continued to work his way up the local Republican organization. In 1999, he organized “Prosecutors for Bush,” in support of George W. Bush’s presidential campaign.
In the 2012 race, Joyce’s Democratic opponent, Dale Virgil Blanchard, an accountant and a 10-time candidate for Congress, ran despite pressure from Democrats who preferred a stronger challenger. Joyce raised more than $500,000 by the end of September, despite not entering the race until mid-August. He ran a mostly positive campaign, and generally did not engage his opponent.
Joyce acknowledges that he’s to the right of his predecessor, who ranked as the second-most-liberal Republican in the House on fiscal issues, according to National Journal’s vote ratings. But he doesn’t take as hard a line as many conservative newcomers, acknowledging that the federal government plays an important role in providing infrastructure. In addition, Joyce does not rule out raising revenue to rein in the deficit. And although he opposes abortion except in the cases of rape, incest, and the life of the woman, he says, “I can understand where the other side is coming from.”
Jonathan Miller contributed to this article.