GOP Holds Onto Conservative District in Special Congressional Election in Ohio

A Republican state lawmaker won a special congressional election Tuesday, hanging onto to a conservative district despite a strong push by Democrats.

Union-backed groups and Democrats were hoping to steal the seat from the GOP and make a big statement going into the 2008 election in Ohio, which is expected to again have a significant role in determining the next president.

Republican Bob Latta defeated Robin Weirauch to complete the term of U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor who died in September from a fall at his Washington apartment.

Latta, the son of a former Ohio congressman, had 55 percent of the vote and Weirauch had 45 percent with 42 percent of the vote counted.

The 5th District in northwest Ohio is conservative and traditionally Republican. No Democrat has won the seat since the 1930s.

But Latta faced a stronger challenge than expected after winning a close primary race in November.

Democrats put a lot of time and money into the race, which the party had all but conceded in past elections. Gillmor's death and the expected low turnout of a special election gave the Democrats hope.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent $150,000 on ads trying to tie Latta to past GOP scandals in the state. Gov. Ted Strickland campaigned with Weirauch and appeared in one of her TV ads.

Latta had spent about $200,000 on TV commercials since the primary while the National Republican Congressional Committee chipped in $160,000 for spots.

Weirauch, 50, was making her third run for the seat. She has never held a political office. Last year she received more votes — 43 percent — than any other Democrat in the district's history.

Latta, 51, won the GOP nomination Nov. 6 following a bruising primary campaign with state Sen. Steve Buehrer.

Latta ran for Congress in 1988, trying to replace his father, Delbert Latta, who held the seat for 30 years. But he lost in the GOP primary to Gillmor by 27 votes.

Gillmor's term in the 16-county district runs until the end of next year.