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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Ohio Congressman Is Latest Moderate to Head for the Exits


With a blast at the toxic partisanship in Washington, Representative Steven C. LaTourette, Republican of Ohio, announced his retirement Tuesday, ending a nine-term career in the House marked by bipartisanship and a pro-labor voting record.

“The time has come not only for good politics but good policy,” he said at a news conference in his Northeast Ohio district. “The atmosphere today no longer encourages the finding of common ground.”

With his announcement, Mr. LaTourette joined a parade of moderate members from both parties heading for the exits, either because of retirements or defeat at the hands of more partisan office seekers.

Senators Olympia Snowe, Republican of Maine, and Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, a longtime Democrat-turned-independent, will leave next year of their own accord. Senator Richard G. Lugar, Republican of Indiana, was defeated for re-election by a less compromising candida te, the Indiana state treasurer, Richard Mourdock.

In recent years, Mr. LaTourette had become increasingly outspoken in his disappointment over the confrontational tone of his party. Last month, he was one of two Republicans who declined to vote Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in contempt of Congress, calling it an unnecessarily provocative act. In March, rather than side with his party on the sweeping budget plan of Representative Paul D. Ryan, he pushed the plan of President Obama's bipartisan deficit reduction commission, known as Bowles-Simpson. It received just 38 votes from 16 Republicans and 22 Democrats.

On Tuesday, he said “it breaks my heart” that Congress was unable to pass a long-term transportation and infrastructure bill, settling for a two-year measure after Republicans split over the future of the federal government's role in such programs.

“For a long time, words like ‘compromise' have been lik e dirty words,” Mr. LaTourette, 58, told reporters Tuesday. “I always believed that the art of being a legislator is finding common ground.”

“I will tell you that Washington and public life is not the same as it was when I started a quarter century ago,” he added.

His district is roughly 49 percent Democratic, with a strong organized-labor presence. But it was not immediately clear his retirement would prompt an unanticipated Ohio House fight. The timing of his announcement will give Democrats little time to find a challenger for a seat that has been in Republican hands for at least 18 years.