Steven C. LaTourette, an Ohio Republican who was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in his party’s 1994 sweep of the chamber and stepped down after nine terms citing his frustration at rancorous partisanship, died Aug. 3 at his home in McLean, Va. He was 62.
His former chief of staff, Dino DiSanto, confirmed his death. Mr. LaTourette was diagnosed in 2014 with pancreatic cancer and filed a claim against the government in May 2015 alleging that a Capitol physician had failed to inform him three years earlier of a lesion on his pancreas.
Mr. LaTourette, a lawyer, won his first office at 34 when he became a county prosecutor. Six years later, he was elected to Congress, representing a swath of northeastern Ohio that included industrial and agricultural regions as well as Cleveland suburbs.
He became known in Washington for his pragmatism and his wit, once hiring humorist Dave Barry to work on his Capitol Hill staff as a gag.
Mr. LaTourette’s voting record was the most moderate in Ohio’s Republican delegation, according to the Almanac of American Politics. He opposed gay marriage and abortion rights but broke with his party on key issues throughout his career, notably on budgetary matters.
In 2011, he renounced a pledge, sponsored by antitax activist Grover Norquist and signed by many GOP legislators, to oppose any increase in taxes. The pledge had expired, Mr. LaTourette quipped, “like milk in the refrigerator.”
When he made the promise, “the No. 1 movie was ‘Lion King,’ ” he said in an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer explaining his decision. “The world was different. To say that you have signed for life, no matter what the circumstances are, I believe would be an abdication of my responsibility.”
He also broke with many Republicans by supporting a boost in the minimum wage and, later, an extension of unemployment benefits in the wake of the Great Recession. He opposed the proposed $700 billion government bailout of Wall Street in 2008.
“I’d rather have rich guys in three-piece suits buy up this bad mortgage debt and get a tax break for doing so than have taxpayers foot the bill,” he said at the time.
He voted to authorize the 2003 invasion of Iraq but was among the legislators who soon began to question the wisdom of the war. “I think that going to war with people who have not attacked you is not a good way to conduct foreign policy,” he said in 2004.
Through his longevity in Congress, Mr. LaTourette won seats at times on the Appropriations and Transportation committees, allowing him to direct critical funding to his state.
He was a close friend of former House Speaker John Boehner, a fellow Ohio Republican, who credited Mr. LaTourette on his retirement with pushing for “commonsense reforms to eliminate duplicative programs, cut red tape and help create a better environment for private-sector job growth.”
Announcing his departure in 2012, Mr. LaTourette remarked that “the expectation is if you want to go up the ranks in either party, you’ve got to give them your wallet and your voting card.
“The overwhelming criticism of me over the years is that sometimes I vote funny, according to my party,” he continued. “And I’m not interested in giving them my wallet or my voting card.”
Steven Clare LaTourette was born in Cleveland on July 22, 1954. He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in 1976 and a law degree from Cleveland State University in 1979.
He began his career as a public defender and in private practice before becoming Lake County prosecutor in 1988. In that role, he attracted national attention for his prosecution of Jeffrey Lundgren, a cult leader who was executed after being convicted in 1990 of killing a family of five.
In his first congressional race, Mr. LaTourette defeated two Republicans in the primary before unseating a freshman Democrat, Eric Fingerhut, in the general election. He initially pledged to serve no more than four terms but continued successfully to seek reelection, touting the influence of his seniority.
His personal life figured prominently in his 2004 campaign against Democrat Capri Cafaro. Mr. LaTourette’s ex-wife, Susan Koprowski, displayed a yard sign for his challenger after earlier telling a reporter that her husband had asked for a divorce because he was romantically involved with a lobbyist. In 2005, Mr. LaTourette married Jennifer Laptook, a lobbying executive who was formerly his chief of staff.
After leaving Congress, he became president of Main Street Partnership, a group that backs centrist Republicans, and did fundraising work for party members facing tea party challengers. He and Jennifer LaTourette also became president and vice president, respectively, of McDonald Hopkins Government Strategies, a lobbying enterprise.
Besides his wife, of McLean, survivors include four children from his first marriage, Ohio state representative Sarah LaTourette (R), Sam LaTourette, Amy LaTourette and Clare LaTourette, all of Cleveland; two children from his second marriage, Emerson LaTourette and Henry LaTourette, both of McLean; his father, Eugene LaTourette of Meadville, Pa.; a brother; two sisters; a half-sister; a half-brother; a step-brother; five step-sisters; and one grandson.
In 1995, when Mr. LaTourette agreed to let Dave Barry work on his staff, the humorist was tasked with writing a speech for the congressman to deliver on the House floor. Barry selected frivolous lawsuits as his topic, and was perhaps surprised when his boss actually gave the address.
“As a lawyer, I am the last person to suggest that everybody in my profession is a money-grubbing, scum-sucking toad. The actual figure is only about 73 percent,” read the script. “Ha ha, I am of course just pulling the Speaker’s honorable leg. The vast majority of lawyers are responsible professionals as well as, in many ways, human beings.”
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