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Published: Tuesday, 12/11/2007

Latta wins handily in 5th District special election

BY TOM TROY AND JOE VARDON
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

BOWLING GREEN State Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green) Tuesday won by a large margin the 5th District congressional seat he was denied by 27 votes almost 20 years ago.

With all precincts in the 16 counties that make up the sprawling district reporting, Mr. Latta beat Robin Weirauch of Napoleon 56.8 percent to 42.95 percent to replace the late U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor (R., Tiffin), who died Sept. 5 of an accidental fall in his Virginia residence. Mr. Gillmor had represented the district since 1989.

I am humbled by the outpouring of support I have received from across the 5th Congressional District, Mr. Latta said in a statement released by his campaign office after the results were clear. I am looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting to work on the important issues facing the constituents of this district. I hope to continue representing this district in the same honor and integrity of Paul Gillmor and my father before him, Del Latta.

Brush Weirauch hugs his wife, Robin, at her campaign headquarters in Bowling Green after she conceded to Bob Latta Tuesday night. Brush Weirauch hugs his wife, Robin, at her campaign headquarters in Bowling Green after she conceded to Bob Latta Tuesday night.
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Mrs. Weirauch, who was making her third attempt at winning the congressional seat, conceded the race to her opponent, but spoke of continuing her bid for the seat Mr. Latta now holds through the end of next year.

She appeared before about 100 supporters last night crammed inside her campaign headquarters in a Main Street storefront in Bowling Green.

While many of her staffers wiped away tears, Mrs. Weirauch stood strong and defiant, issuing rhetoric that points toward a fourth attempt at winning the 5th District seat in 2008.

She spoke of the present being the Democrats time in Ohio politics, and said her campaign sent a loud message to Republicans in Washington that we re mad as hell and we re not going to take it anymore.

We can t give up, Mrs. Weirauch said many times throughout her speech. This is a fight we have to continue.

Mr. Latta said Mrs. Weirauch ran a good race, but said he was not able to get through to her on the telephone, as of 10:30 p.m.

Greeting cheering supporters at his headquarters on South Main Street here, Mr. Latta thanked his wife and two daughters, and other supporters.

The district is made up Crawford, Defiance, Fulton, Henry, Huron, Paulding, Putnam, Sandusky, Seneca, Van Wert, Williams, and Wood counties, and parts of Ashland, Lucas, Mercer, and Wyandot.

Mr. Latta, a lawyer, has been in the Ohio General Assembly 11 years, as both a state senator and state representative. He is taking over the seat that his father, Delbert Latta, held from 1959 to 1989. Bob Latta ran for the seat in a primary election in 1988 but lost to Mr. Gillmor by 27 votes.

After Mr. Gillmor s death, Mr. Latta took on State Sen. Steve Buehrer (R., Delta) in a primary election Nov. 6. The fight turned harsh with Mr. Buehrer and Mr. Latta attacked each other in television commercials and mailings portraying each other as straying from conservative doctrines of limited government, low taxes, and religious values.

Mr. Latta defeated Mr. Buehrer 44 percent to 40 percent, with three other Republicans sharing the rest of the vote.

Republicans feared and Democrats hoped that some voters would be turned off enough by the harsh rhetoric of the GOP primary to stay home Tuesday. On Friday, Mr. Buehrer issued a statement saying that economic prosperity is the goal, and that Mr. Latta has a better record on these issues.

In the short campaign leading up to Tuesday s voting, Democrats battered Mr. Latta in television ads paid for by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee that said he was ensnared in the wide-ranging scandal involving convicted thief and GOP money-launderer Tom Noe and former Gov. Bob Taft, who was convicted of an ethics violation for failing to report gifts received from Noe.

The National Republican Congressional Committee complained the ads were defamatory, but the DCCC continued to run the ads, with only a slight change in response to television station sales managers complaints that juxtaposing Mr. Latta s photo with a headline reading Ex-Taft Aides are Charged in Ethics Case was misleading because Mr. Latta was never charged with any misconduct in connection with Coingate.

The ad was based on Mr. Latta s acceptance of more than $1,000 in campaign contributions from Noe prior to the discovery that he had stolen from a $50 million fund he invested in rare coins for the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation.

Ironically, Mr. Latta had leveled a similar attack on Mr. Buehrer, who had accepted almost $8,000 in donations from Noe.

The NRCC, which spent more than $400,000 to support Mr. Latta in a district that is considered a safe Republican seat, attacked Mrs. Weirauch over her extreme liberal values. The ad said Mrs. Weirauch opposed commonsense restrictions on abortion and repealing the death tax, and favored free health care for illegal immigrants.

While the DCCC ran its advertisements linking Mr. Latta to Noe, Mrs. Weirauch sought to define her candidacy as focused on middle-class issues such as health care and loss of jobs and high wages due to unfair trade agreements. She received campaign help from the state AFL-CIO which arranged phone banks, volunteers, and campaign events throughout the rural district.

Mrs. Weirauch also ran in 2004 and 2006 against Mr. Gillmor, but received only 43 percent in the 2006 election, a year in which Democrats Sherrod Brown and Ted Strickland carried the district in their successful campaigns for U.S. senator and governor, respectively.

Tom Cole, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said the race became a cause c l bre for national Democrats and liberal activists nationwide, but in the end, Bob s anti-illegal immigration, anti-tax hike message won the day.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said the election drew out right-wing interest groups that spent money on the race, such as Freedom s Watch and the National Rifle Association, and found consolation in making them spend some of their campaign money.

Spending 20 percent of their cash on hand to retain one of the most Republican districts in the country priceless, said DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen.

Prior to the election, the DCCC had $28.3 million stored up, while the NRCC had only $2.5 million.

Mr. Latta said he knew the DCCC was going to sink a lot of money into one of the two special elections that were held Tuesday. The other was in Virginia s 1st District, in which the DCCC spent no money.

Asked why they picked Ohio, Mr. Latta said, I must be a good punching bag.

In Virginia, Rob Wittman, a first-term Republican state legislator, got about 61 percent of the vote over Democrat Philip Forgit s nearly 37 percent, with 100 percent of votes counted. Only about 15 percent of registered voters turned out.

Mr. Wittman had a nearly 4-to-1 fundraising advantage and the benefit of being a Republican in a district where President Bush got 60 percent of the vote in 2004.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com



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