LaTourette: Voinovich Foremost Among Ohio's 'Giants That Have Come And Gone'

Left to Right, George Voinovich, Steven LaTourette, and former state lawmaker Patrick Sweeney in 2013. (Photo: Mark Urycki)
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National, state, and local figures continue to commend the legacy of former Cleveland mayor, Ohio governor, and U.S. Sen. George Voinovich.
    
Voinovich died Sunday in his sleep at the Collinwood home he and wife Janet have owned for decades.
    
ideastream's Tony Ganzer spoke with former GOP Congressman Steven LaTourette about his reaction to Voinovich's death, and his legacy:

LaTourette: “It’s a horribly sad day for the state of Ohio, the United States, and certainly the Republican party and Ohio and Northeastern Ohio.  Senator, Governor, Commissioner, Mayor, Lieutenant Governor Voinovich was an integral part of anybody’s career that was involved in governing over the last 25, 30 years, and his passing is going to leave a big void.”

Ganzer: “For him to have come out of Northeast Ohio, Cleveland specifically, it made him kind of an anomaly to be a conservative. What do you think led to that success of coming out of Cuyahoga County, especially, as a ‘Blue county’ but having a very popular time as governor?”

LaTourette: “Certainly it all began with his ethnic roots, and his ability as a Republican to tap into the ethnic communities in Greater Cleveland, that tended to trend Democratic, as you correctly point out, but voters were able to look beyond traditional party labels where he was concerned to say that he was one of us, he was George. And I think that let him break through relative to being county commissioner at a time when you would have an occasional Republican county commissioner in Virgil Brown and so forth and so on, it certainly isn’t and wasn’t the norm, and it wasn’t the norm right up until the county commission ceased to exist with their restructuring plan that took place.  And that then allowed him to take his Republican message to the rest of the state where it was well-received; he rolled up very, very impressive vote numbers.  And to people like me that were Republicans up in Northeastern Ohio, he was our mentor, he was our leader, he was the one if we wanted to be successful that we, I felt at least, needed to pattern ourselves after.  And I certainly any chance that I had to pick up the telephone or sit down with him and just get a crumb of advice from him was beyond its weight in gold, because he did navigate that rather deftly.”

Ganzer: “I know it’s tough to guess, but is there a lasting legacy maybe for the GOP at-large from Voinovich and conservatives like him, and you?”

LaTourette: “There’s definitely a lasting legacy.  I would say Jim Rhodes was the generation before him. George Voinovich was the next generation of true Republican leader, not only in the state of Ohio, but in Northeastern Ohio.  And all of us that came after him are definitely a legacy and a reflection of his work in Cuyahoga County and beyond.”

Ganzer: “And any final thoughts for people to think about as we’re remembering George Voinovich?”

LaTourette: “I know that all of our thoughts and prayers go out to Janet. They were inseparable.  When we would campaign together, I would take the lazy man’s way out and go down the hill at the Blossom Festival in Chagrin Falls in a nice convertible, he and Janet were riding the double-seater bicycle up and down even as he got late into his career, and he continued to be a people person. And Janet was certainly inseparable from anything he did or accomplished you couldn’t see him without seeing her.  So I’m certainly praying for Janet today.  And again the hole that’s been left with his passing in Northeastern Ohio, you really can’t measure it. It’s up with all the other giants that have come and gone in our area, and he’s certainly foremost among them.”

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