Apparently tomorrow morning there will be a bombshell coming out of the Painesville, Ohio office of nine-term Congressman Steve “Family Values for You But Not for Me” LaTourette (Oh-14). The fake “moderate” is supposedly going to announce that he is retiring from Congress, allegedly because he isn’t happy with his committee assignments but probably in reality because Ohio is beneath him now that he dumped his wife and kids for a young lobbyist (He seldom comes back to the district).
With the Ohio primaries already long receded into history, this leaves the Republican leadership in the northeastern Ohio counties east of Cleveland that comprise the district to replace him on the ballot.
Because of the Republican gerrymander that has inflamed Ohio voters to the point where 750,000 signatures were turned in this morning to place Voters First Ohio — which would overturn the redistricting process and replace it with a nonpartisan citizens commission — on the ballot, this is possibly the last real swing district in the state. So this is great for us, right? A real pickup opportunity, since the only thing standing in the way of electing a Democrat here was LaTourette’s inexplicable popularity and his coasting on his reputation as prosecutor in the infamous Kirtland mass murder of 1989.
Nope. Because this year the Democratic candidate is once again Solon accountant and perennial candidate Dale Blanchard, a man with an amazing losing record. How does he lose? Let me count the ways!
He’s run in this district in every election back to 2002, and before that, in LaTourette’s previous district in 2000. But he’s only run against LaTourette twice before, in 2000 and 2002 — because from 2004-2010, he failed to get out of the Democratic primary.
In 2002, he had no primary opponent. He went straight to the general election where he got crushed by LaTourette by a nearly 3-1 margin — the worst beating LaTourette has ever given an opponent.
Unfortunately for Blanchard, in 2004 five Democrats stepped up to vie for the chance to take on LaTourette. Capri Cafaro won that primary. Wanna guess where Blanchard finished? Right — dead last, with six percent of the vote.
That didn't stop him from trying again in 2006, this time in a three-way field. He didn't do quite as badly. Case law professor and political novice Lew Katz got 42.49% of the vote, with Blanchard second with 31.21%. As inexperienced as he was, Katz way outperformed Blanchard against LaTourette.
But in 2008 and 2010, he returned to his familiar last place, both times finishing behind eventual candidate Bill O'Neill and runner-up John Greene.
I'll bet you can guess why he's the candidate this year. He had no primary opponent. LaTourette's undentable popularity apparently scared everyone off but Blanchard.
It’s long been bandied about by Democrats in Ohio that we’ll get this district back when, and only when, LaTourette retires. And if the Ohio GOP puts up a crazy-ass teabagger, we’ll have an excellent shot in 2014.
But I think longingly about what a gift this would have been if it were Bob “Who? Latta (Oh-05) or Mike “Who?” Turner (the new Oh-10) or teabagger Bob Gibbs (the new Oh-07) who decided to bail on Congress.
In each of those districts, we’ve got a dynamic, hard-working, personable candidate who has been out in the field for months with a full-fledged campaign. These are tough districts but the DCCC, the Women’s Campaign Fund, and national progressive groups are taking notice of, respectively, Angela Zimmann, Sharen Neuhardt, and Joyce Healy-Abrams.
Dale Blanchard may be a nice man. His positions seem OK, even if his website looks like one of those things a fringe Constitution Party candidate throws together, lacking only the multiple waving American flags. But he is a loser. Still, there was no way that Democrats could have predicted this entrenched congressman would throw in the towel, and it was in many ways a good call to focus on other districts this time around. But I can’t help thinking what a good shot someone like Cafaro (now in the state senate) or O’Neill (running for state Supreme Court) would have with LaTourette out of the way.