In some election, someone may be able to dethrone U.S. Rep. Bob Latta in Ohio’s 5th Congressional District.
But that doesn’t appear likely to happen this primary, in our view, not because of a lack of qualified candidates, but because of Latta’s solid base of support throughout the district.
Latta, who is running for his sixth term in Congress, faces two worthy challengers in Bob Kreienkamp of Wayne, and Todd Wolfrum of Middle Point in the Republican primary.
Meanwhile, two Democrats, Michael Galbraith of Maumee, and James Neu Jr. of Perrysburg, are vying for the opportunity to take on the winning Republican in November.
On the Republican ticket, Latta would appear to be a heavy favorite, again. Since first running for the House in 2008, Latta has easily won re-election with 64, 68, 57, 66 and 71 percent of the vote. He has only had to endure a primary fight one other time, in 2012.
After a decade in the U.S. House, Latta seems entrenched in a heavily conservative district where there are no signs to suggest change is in order. While some may not like his low-key style, he has been a constant voice for the majority that make up the district, which may be one of the most conservative anywhere in Ohio.
No question, Latta’s competition this election cycle has brought issues to the forefront and challenged Latta to defend some of his votes in the House. (See Courier story, Page A3, April 23).
The biggest knocks against Latta may be his reluctance to hold town hall-style gatherings and that he isn’t always responsive to his constituents. But Latta spends considerable time in Ohio and, since 2012, he’s attended over 800 meetings in the district.
He is also an active congressman. GovTrack.us ranks him as one of the most effective members of Congress, and sixth among U.S. House members for having the most bills signed into law over the previous two Congresses.
And he shows up for work. He hasn’t missed a single vote out of 1,283 in Congress in nearly two years, the longest running streak of the entire Ohio delegation, and the fourth-longest streak out of all U.S. representatives.
Republican voters may support Latta due to his consistency and work ethic, but his proven conservative track record will likely keep him in office as long as he desires.
There are signs of conservatism in both Kreienkamp and Wolfrum, as well. Unfortunately for them, the track record is lacking. Wolfrum is in his second term as a Van Wert county commissioner. Kreienkamp, who has never held public office, is a retired electronics engineer and farmer.
Bottom line: Until Latta stumbles, if he ever does, he will remain hard to beat.
Our pick: Latta
The candidacies of Democrats Galbraith and Neu have added a needed voice to the 5th District House race.
Galbraith owns a small investment management business, and has taught finance and management at Bowling Green State University. Neu is a team leader on a torque converter line at FCA in Toledo.
Neu ran against Latta in the 2016 general election, and got over 100,000 votes. But Latta still took 71 percent of the vote.
The rare Democratic primary in a district dominated by Republicans may be a small measure of success, but is an important step. Either Galbraith or Neu will represent the district’s liberal interests well moving toward November.
Still, a huge challenge awaits the primary winner, since Latta will have a hefty war chest to finance his fall campaign.
In the long term, the best thing that can happen in the 5th District on May 8 for Democrats, and all voters, for that matter, is for state Issue 1 to pass. If it does, Ohio’s next congressional maps will be redrawn in 2021, and could help make elections more competitive for those trying to oust a strong incumbent like Latta.
Our pick: Neu.