Almanac A members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics

Biography

Elected: 2006, 4th term.

Born: November 4, 1947, Louisville, KY

Home: Louisville, KY

Education: Yale U., B.A. 1969, attended Georgetown, 1972-74, attended U. of Louisville, 1975

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.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Jewish

Family: Married (Catherine Elizabeth Creedon) , 1 child

Democrat John Yarmuth, who was first elected in 2006, is a former journalist whose candor sometimes leads him to go off-message in discussing his party’s shortcomings. But he also enjoys rebuking Republicans, especially his powerful home-state colleague Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader.

Yarmuth hails 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 Ronald Reagan, 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 Richard 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 television political commentary.

In 2006, five-term Rep. Anne Northup was again vulnerable in the Democratic-leaning 3rd District, which she’d fought hard to keep by bringing in millions of federal dollars 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 George W. Bush. Northup campaigned on the Republican tax cuts and her work for the district.

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, saying he supported 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 told Esquire magazine in 2010 that he had trouble adjusting to elected office: “I never had to compromise on my opinion in the column. Suddenly you have to swallow all sorts of compromises, and that’s not easy at all.” With his journalism background, he joined a “messaging” group that advised Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders on media strategy. He snared a seat on the powerful Ways and Means Committee in the 111th Congress (2009-10), but lost it after the Republicans regained control of the House in 2011.

He moved over to the Budget Committee, where he frequently jabs at McConnell on fiscal policy. After McConnell wrote an op-ed in April 2012 blasting President Barack Obama’s health care law, Yarmuth fired off a lengthy response that accused McConnell of “misrepresentations.” During the subsequent budget showdown aimed at averting the so-called fiscal cliff, Yarmuth told MSNBC that the minority leader was keeping an eye on possible 2014 GOP primary challengers in his negotiations with Democrats. “Mitch McConnell will always do what’s in Mitch McConnell’s best interest,” he said. The same month, he sparked widespread attention for talking up actress and Kentucky native Ashley Judd as a possible McConnell challenger. “The money would pour in here as soon as she entered the race,” Yarmuth said.

But Yarmuth also goes places rhetorically where most Democrats won’t venture. After the House passed the fiscal-cliff budget compromise, he praised House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, for being “courageous” in sending the Senate-passed deal to the House floor. He earlier told Roll Call newspaper that the health care law was the right thing to do policy-wise, but “big picture, politically, it probably wasn’t worth it.” He also told a Louisville radio station that after the Senate made changes to the bill, “We couldn’t really go to the average American citizen and say, ‘Here’s what it means to you.’’’

Northup came back for a rematch in 2008, after losing a primary contest for governor. She criticized Yarmuth for supporting the $700 billion bailout for the financial markets in 2008, and also attacked his “present” vote on a resolution honoring Christmas, asserting he had 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%. In 2010, Yarmuth held back the Republican wave with 55% of the vote, and then increased his percentage to 64% two years later.

Yarmuth finished third among members of Congress—and 14th overall—in Golf Digest’s 2011 ranking of the 150 best golfers in Washington’s political world. He says that the demands of serving in Congress prompted him to scale back his plans to spend a month every year at a home he built near a golf course in Ireland.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-5401

(202) 225-5776

CHOB- Cannon House Office Building Room 403
Washington, DC 20515-1703

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-5401

(202) 225-5776

CHOB- Cannon House Office Building Room 403
Washington, DC 20515-1703

DISTRICT OFFICE

(502) 582-5129

(502) 582-5897

Romano Mazzoli Federal Building Suite 216
Louisville, KY 40202-2285

DISTRICT OFFICE

(502) 582-5129

(502) 582-5897

Romano Mazzoli Federal Building Suite 216
Louisville, KY 40202-2285

DISTRICT OFFICE

(502) 933-5863

(502) 935-6934

Southwest Government Center
Louisville, KY 40258-3756

DISTRICT OFFICE

(502) 933-5863

(502) 935-6934

Louisville Metro Southwest Government Center
Louisville, KY 40258-3756

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

(502) 891-8914

5008 Nitta Yuma Drive
Harrods Creek, KY 40027

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

5008 Nitta Yuma Drive
Harrods Creek, KY 40027

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Election Results

2012 GENERAL
John Yarmuth
Votes: 206,385
Percent: 63.96%
Brooks Wicker
Votes: 111,452
Percent: 34.54%
2012 PRIMARY
John Yarmuth
Votes: 43,635
Percent: 86.66%
Burrel Farnsley
Votes: 6,716
Percent: 13.34%
2010 GENERAL
John Yarmuth
Votes: 139,940
Percent: 54.68%
Todd Lally
Votes: 112,627
Percent: 44.01%
2010 PRIMARY
John Yarmuth
Unopposed
2008 GENERAL
John Yarmuth
Votes: 203,843
Percent: 59.37%
Anne Northup
Votes: 139,527
Percent: 40.63%
2008 PRIMARY
John Yarmuth
Unopposed
Prior Winning Percentages
2010 (55%), 2008 (59%), 2006 (51%)

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