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Ohio's old-school politicians meet in the middle
LaTourette, Voinovich, and Sweeney say gerrymandering, term limits and fringe candidates are hurting government.

Mark Urycki
(L to R) George Voinovich, Steven LaTourette, and Patrick Sweeney
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In The Region:
Three retired politicians gathered for a forum last night and did something politicians rarely do: they publicly regretted some votes and publicly called for more compromise. Republicans George Voinovich and Steven LaTourette joined Democrat Patrick Sweeney at Cleveland State University for a gathering called “Can we meet in the middle?” WKSU’s Mark Urycki reports: It doesn’t look good.
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These three guys agree are happy to beat up on fellow politicians. But former Congressman Steve LaTourette says you shouldn’t believe the hype from politicians who love to run against Washington D.C., even while working there.

“Not everyone in office is a crook. There are some.  Last year, we celebrated in Ohio for the first time in 10 years that we didn’t have a member of our delegation in prison. It was a big moment for us.”  

Actually it’s been a couple years since Bob Ney and Jim Traficant got out of prison.

Gridlock and other problems
But these three Northeast Ohio moderates believe legislative gridlock is caused by too many fringe candidates. LaTourette goes right after his own party.

“Why I threw up my hands and left at the end of the day is that we have 50 or 60 members of the House who happen to be Republicans who have no interest in governing. They just want to say no. “

Former Ohio lawmaker Patrick Sweeney likes the budget proposals of Gov. Kasich, but he’s afraid House and Senate leaders and conservative ideologues won’t let it even come up for a vote. And he says there’s little discussion across party lines. 

Thanks to term limits, he said, “They don‘t know each other."

Social mixing and mixing it up
Former Ohio governor and senator George Voinovich regretted he ever supported term limits and said the U.S. Senate is getting the same way – in that members don’t socialize across party lines any longer. He was the only Republican to vote for raising the debt limit in 2009 because he knew Democrat Evan Bayh would not. He had to vote against his party.

“So if I stick with the team, we’re going to go home at Christmas and have chaos in the international marketplace.  I said, ‘I can’t do it. My conscious won’t let me do it.’ ”

Voinovich also resisted lobbying from President Bush in 2003 and refused to cut taxes any more than $350 billion

“Now I wish I hadn’t gone with $350 billion.  You reach a point where you have to live with yourself.”

Voinovich says redistricting has created maps where only far left or far right candidates get elected, and they do the bidding of uncompromising lobby groups. LaTourette believes his party was hurt so much by Tea Party candidates that he’s leading a new PAC aimed at supporting moderate Republicans in primaries.  He calls the people running on the far right  “Manchurian candidates.”

 “We only have one litmus test: yYou have to be normal.”

LaTourette, Voinovich and Sweeney may sound disgusted by politics but in the end they agreed that they would support young people who want to serve in government. 

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