Last month, U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green) voted with a House minority against ending the government shutdown. In so doing, he broke with Republican Party leaders and defied the wishes of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Asked about his constituents’ reaction to the vote, Mr. Latta responded: “I have not had any calls at my office. They know how to get hold of me. Nobody’s shy out there [about] talking to me.”
Last year at this time, I was in the final days of a campaign against Representative Latta, in a district that had not elected a Democrat since Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency. I had been informed it would be an uphill battle. Yet I chose to run out of a conviction that if the United States’ grand and holy experiment in democracy is to be a lasting success, leaders must be held accountable for every vote they cast.
Shortly after the election, I received a call to serve the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. I am working as a pastor and special assistant to the bishop and president of the Lutheran World Federation. With my husband and children, I am committed to working and living in Jerusalem for at least the next three years.
In the past few weeks, I have been contacted numerous times by Democrats, independents, and Republicans in the 5th District, asking whether I will run against Mr. Latta next year. The answer is no, because I cannot shirk my obligation in the Middle East. Nonetheless, my home, my heart, and my vote remain in Ohio.
I cannot speak to the veracity of Mr. Latta’s claim that his constituents are not talking to him. But I can confirm that men and women in the 5th District are talking about him.
Their voices are pragmatic and pro-business. They are not right-wing ideologues, bound to the wallets of the Tea Party as indentured servants of the Koch brothers.
They are hard-working patriots: farmers, business owners, teachers, nurses, lawyers, union workers, engineers. They deserve a representative whose commitment is to serving the people who have entrusted him with such a privilege.
Representative Latta stands against uniting the interests of Wall Street and Main Street, and for continuing the disfranchisement of the middle class. He seeks division, where unity makes us strong.
The citizens of the 5th District deserve a representative who doesn’t take them — or re-election — for granted. His constituents are talking, but Mr. Latta isn’t listening.
I can’t run next year, but I pray that someone will. Mr. Latta’s recent votes on budget sequestration, the government shutdown, and the debt ceiling are morally reprehensible. He should be forced to explain his rationale.
During my campaign, I sought to debate Mr. Latta at a time and place of his choosing. In at least three public forums, I asked why he would not engage in what the people deserved. Each time, he evaded the question.
“I don’t think one vote is going to affect Bob Latta’s position with business leaders in the community,” said Matt Reger, the chairman of the Wood County Republican Party. But one vote could have affected Mr. Latta’s relations with the Koch brothers and the Tea Party. He is unwilling to risk alienating such wealthy benefactors.
The 5th District, and the nation, need substantial campaign finance reform. We need bipartisan control of the process of drawing congressional districts.
If we had these things, extremist ideologues such as my former opponent would have to run on merit and a platform of ideas. Mr. Latta could no longer hide behind tired rhetoric in a system that guarantees his re-election, regardless of how many of his constituents’ needs are not met.
He would have to answer for the choices he has made on behalf of the families in the 5th District — families like mine. Why is Mr. Latta’s allegiance to the few instead of the many? Why does he cater to the very wealthy, instead of the ailing middle class?
I implore him to respect the people he claims to serve by providing the answers they seek. We deserve a visionary voice — the best representation that money can’t buy.
The Rev. Angela Zimmann lives in Jerusalem, where she is special assistant to the bishop and president of the Lutheran World Federation.