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Former U.S. Rep. Steven C. LaTourette dies at 62

Former 14th District congressman known for bipartisanship, sharp wit loses battle with cancer

by Andrew Schunk | Twinsburg Bulletin Editor Published: August 4, 2016 12:45 PM
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Former Congressman Steven C. LaTourette, who passed away Aug. 3 at 62 after a battle with pancreatic cancer, offered solutions rather than insults, compromise rather than intransigence during his 18 years on Capitol Hill.

"My proudest accomplishments are finding a way forward to fix the problem and not finding a way to blame somebody," LaTourette told the Twinsburg Bulletin in January 2013, just after leaving Ohio's 14th District Congressional seat. "I've been a problem solver and that's how I attempted to approach the job.

"What caused me to leave is the fact that there is no place for that anymore. The art of compromise that people talk about fondly with Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill really doesn't exist today."

The former Lake County prosecutor served as representative for Ohio's 19th U.S. congressional district from 1995 to 2000 before being elected to the newly-drawn 14th district in 2002, representing Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula counties, as well as portions of Portage, Summit, Trumbull and Cuyahoga counties.

It was during Mr. LaTourette's tenure that a satellite office for Ohio's 14th District was established at Twinsburg Government Center on Ravenna Road. That satellite office started with humbler beginnings in the Old School on Route 91.

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"This is just sad news for entire community and region," said former Twinsburg Mayor Katherine Procop. "Steve was a wonderful leader who worked with both sides of the aisle. He was a good friend to Twinsburg, always working to bring support back to our region. I hold him in such high regard."

Congressman David Joyce, who succeeded LaTourette as Lake County prosecutor, also followed his friend of 30 years as Ohio's 14th District representative.

"Obviously, they are big shoes to fill," Joyce said. "He was a tremendous congressman and a good friend. We started off as prosecutors, and as public defenders before that, which I always thought gave us a better idea of how the world operated. He was a rock solid guy. To lose him and [former Ohio governor and senator] George Voinovich this year has been tough. The good ones always go to soon."

"Steve LaTourette was a good man who was always willing to reach across the aisle to do right by the working men and women of northeast Ohio," Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said Aug. 3. "Connie [Schultz, Brown's wife] and I send our deepest sympathies to his family as they mourn his loss."

Mr. LaTourette established a reputation as a centrist Republican, a hard-working representative who put partisan differences aside.

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He obtained federal money for major revisions to Route 8 and the replacement of roads and bridges in Ohio's 14th District.

And while President Obama's auto bailout package may have assisted auto workers in other areas of the country, it did not help the workers of UAW Local 122 in Twinsburg, who saw the Chrysler Stamping Plant shuttered in May 2009.

Then-Rep. LaTourette, along with Sen. Brown, worked hard to make sure those workers were represented inside the Beltway.

"We are grateful to you and your administration for the leadership demonstrated," LaTourette wrote in an open letter to President Obama in May 2009 in the Bulletin. "However, decisions being made by the Auto Task Force and in the bankruptcy proceedings in New York are more than troubling. You indicated that '[the bankruptcy filing] will not disrupt the lives of the people who work at Chrysler or live in communities that depend on it.'

"While we know that was your intention, events following your announcement have made that impossible."

When 47 Chrysler and 79 GM dealerships in Ohio were shut down by those automakers following the 2008-09 recession as part of bankruptcy filings and restructurings, LaTourette worked to give those dealerships the right to appeal their closures to a third party.

He also walked the walk in his home district.

"I'm very proud of the connector road between [routes] 91 and 82 named after the fallen police officer in Twinsburg [Officer Joshua Miktarian Memorial Parkway,]" LaTourette said. "There's a whole smattering of things that I'm proud of, but none of those would have come about unless I had great partnerships with the local elected officials."

LaTourette moved on to the private sector more than three years ago to become president of McDonald-Hopkins Government Strategies, a subsidiary of McDonald-Hopkins law firm.

He has said his fondest memories included working closely with mayors and city officials in the 14th District.

"It's a two-part job, and the part that I loved about it was working with Mayor [Katherine] Procop and Mayor [Karen] Fritschel in Stow and all the local elected officials to try and help resolve some of their issues in partnership with the federal government," LaTourette said. "I will definitely miss working with those people.

"I'm not going to so much miss dealing with the United States Senate."

Known for his dry wit and irreverent humor, Mr. LaTourette knew politics "was a contact sport."

"You accept that you're going to have disagreements with people and people are going to be political," he said. "What drove me out the door was that people basically want to fight about everything. If an idea was thought up by a Democrat and you're a Republican, you have to say it's a horrible idea and vice versa.

"It limited my ability to be an effective problem solver because nobody was interested in solving problems."

Mr. LaTourette often spoke to local organizations, including annual talks to the Twinsburg Chamber of Commerce and the Hudson Library and Historical Society.

During a talk to the Twinsburg Chamber in August 2012, he gave away several Obama Inauguration coins, saying that was his last-ditch effort at bipartisanship.

"The art of legislation is finding things doable. If you get 65 percent of what you're looking for, it's a pretty good day at the office," LaTourette said. "You have a responsibility to govern the country."

Mr. LaTourette, formerly of Bainbridge Township, passed away at his home in McLean, Va., surrounded by family. He leaves behind his wife, Jennifer, and six children, including Ohio state Rep. Sarah LaTourette.

Email: aschunk@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9424

Twitter: @twinsburgohio

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