A Maumee man whose father was a longtime state representative said he plans to challenge U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green) for the 5th Congressional District seat next year.
J. Michael Galbraith, 65, who teaches personal finance at Bowling Green State University and runs an investment fund, intends to run as a Democrat.
A first-time candidate, Mr. Galbraith said he helped his father, John A. Galbraith, a Republican, campaign by knocking on doors in Maumee. The elder Mr. Galbraith served 10 terms, from 1967 through 1986.
Mr. Galbraith said he doesn’t agree with Mr. Latta or the Republican Party on the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans say they want to repeal and replace, under a proposal that was released Monday.
“If you ask many citizens in the district what they think of Obamacare, they say get rid of it. If you ask them five minutes later about the Affordable Care Act they say it’s pretty good,” Mr. Galbraith said. “The Republicans have done a good job of disparaging the brand but not the product.” Mr. Galbraith said he favors a federal single-payer plan such as universal Medicare.
He said he wants strong protections for Lake Erie and the Maumee River watershed.
“[Mr. Latta] is part of the movement to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency. What concerns me about Bob Latta is there is no independent thinking on his part. He takes the Republican line without really questioning what is going on,” Mr. Galbraith said. He said Mr. Latta gets contributions from “some of the largest culprits of nutrient runoff.”
Mr. Galbraith serves on the Toledo Rotary Club’s water services committee relating to grant applications involving clean water projects.
As his third issue, Mr. Galbraith said he is concerned about Russian interference that he says is undermining democracy in the United States and the political process in Western Europe.
“International isolationism in 2017 serves no purpose. My concern is that a number of markets will be closed to our citizens and constituents of the 5th Congressional District,” Mr. Galbraith said.
Mr. Galbraith’s candidacy evolved very recently.
“I and many other people were concerned and disturbed by the outcome of the November elections,” Mr. Galbraith said.
He said he was thinking what he could do to make a difference when he attended a roundtable on the economic consequences of health-care repeal sponsored by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) in Toledo in January. A friend mentioned, “we have to do something about Bob Latta.”
“This is what kick-started my interest in running for office,” Mr. Galbraith said.
Since then, he said he has discussed the race with local Democratic leaders and others, and is in the process of filling the positions of campaign manager, finance chairman, and treasurer.
Mr. Latta won a special election to replace the late U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor (R., Old Fort) in 2007 and was re-elected over Democratic opposition in every even-numbered year since then. In 2016, he defeated Democratic challenger James Neu, Jr., of Perrysburg, with 71 percent of the vote. Mr. Neu, an employee of the Chrysler Toledo machining plant in Perrysburg Township, has said he plans to run again.
Michael Zickar, chairman of the Wood County Democratic Party, said the party has not made an endorsement yet.
“There’s two candidates, a lot of excitement in this race. I’m just delighted that people are showing interest in this race early on. A lot of people are frustrated with Mr. Latta’s inability to have a town hall, explain how he’s going to replace the Affordable Care Act,” Mr. Zickar said.
Mr. Latta was not available to be interviewed by The Blade about the 2018 election, according to his director of communications, Drew Griffin. Mr. Griffin issued a statement he said was provided by Mr. Latta.
“I am very honored to have the privilege of serving the constituents of the 5th Congressional District, and I look forward to continuing to represent them in the 115th Congress,” the statement said.
Mike Marsh, Republican chairman for Wood County, said Mr. Latta is consistent and popular in the district.
“I think Bob’s been a steady hand for a long time, he serves our district well. The district as a whole, his views are consistent with the vast majority of those people,” Mr. Marsh said. He said it’s too early to consider what effect the early controversies of the Trump Administration will have on the 2018 congressional election.
Mr. Galbraith said he knows the political odds are stacked against him. For one thing, he noted that Mr. Latta’s campaign finance account already has $800,000 in it, while he has not raised any money yet. According to the Federal Elections Commission, Mr. Latta’s campaign had $788,604 cash on hand as of Dec. 31.
Mr. Galbraith went to Maumee Valley Country Day School and then Bucknell University. During a break in his university education he traveled in Europe and met a Danish woman who would become his wife, now Benedikte Galbraith. They have three grown children.
He worked in London in international finance for 25 years, returning to live in the United States in 2003 following the death of his sister Tenley Galbraith from cancer.
In addition to his father’s political history, Mr. Galbraith’s uncle, Evan Galbraith, was ambassador to France under President Reagan.
The 5th District has been represented by Republicans for decades, and it has a Republican majority averaging about 8 percentage points, according to the Cook Political Report.
The district has all or part of 14 counties, including western Lucas County; all of Wood, Fulton, Henry, Defiance, Williams, Hancock, Paulding, Putnam, Van Wert, Wyandot, and Hardin counties, and portions of Ottawa and Mercer counties.
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