Two men are squaring off May 8 in the Democratic primary in the Fifth Congressional District. The winner will face either incumbent Bob Latta or one of his Republican challengers in November.
J. Michael Galbraith
The 66-year-old Maumee native had expected a different, more satisfying outcome to the 2016 presidential election. That, coupled with his disdain for Bob Latta’s performance as Ohio’s Fifth District congressman, was enough incentive for the Democrat living within a solidly Republican district to try to make a difference.
“We looked into the abyss of chaos, and this is what prompted me to run,” he said.
A financial advisor, manager, and teacher with a Master of Business Administration from Bowling Green State University, Galbraith has no prior political experience. However, Donald Trump’s victory and what Galbraith perceives as Latta’s dismal record in office were enough to make him throw his hat into the congressional race.
“He consistently votes on the party line. There’s no independent thinking,” he said of Latta. “He doesn’t meet face to face with his constituents ever, unless they’re high value donors, of course, to his campaign. But he doesn’t meet with everyday people.”
Galbraith is also unhappy with Latta’s voting record, calling him “out of touch with the issues important to everyday people. He has not regard whatsoever for his constituents.”
He added, “(Latta) thinks it’s okay that folks go bankrupt over medical bills, he favors cutting Social Security. I find it very, very strange that he signed a tax bill…that takes money out of the middle classes and working classes and puts it into the pockets of the one percent. Bob Latta is just exposing himself as a member of a party that is completely, fiscally irresponsible.”
Galbraith also criticized Republicans for “badly thought-out tariffs that the current administration is willing to impose. The farming community is at real risk here. (Republican) policies drive businesses out of the district, and I think our incumbent is complicit.”
If elected, he would remain in consistent contact with constituents, and keep himself available. “Any elected official has to be available personally and often to constituents in the entire district,” he said.
He would work to maintain Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and would act on his strong feelings about the environment and clean water. Galbraith said the problem of run-off from farms needs attention.
“I don’t think Latta works closely enough with the farming community,” he said.
If chosen in the primary election May 8, Galbraith plans to delve more into detail about his agenda.
James Neu Jr.
James Neu Jr. lost to Latta in the 2016 Fifth District race but was buoyed by the over 100,000 votes he received. The 38-year-old Chrysler worker and former union official said that’s a strong indication there is interest in replacing the incumbent.
“He’s out of touch with the working man and woman of the Fifth District,” Neu said. “We’re not pleased on how he votes strictly party line 90 percent of the time.”
The Perrysburg resident said Latta is part of a much larger problem in Washington, D.C., where the average American voice is not being heard in Congress.
“We have big money and special interests running Washington,” he said. “(And) it’s the tone in Washington, where both sides refuse to sit down to keep the country moving forward. It’s just generally the way the country has been going the past couple years. I haven’t seen much unity. One side stalls, the other side stalls, and it’s just a quagmire.
“With the dissatisfaction with what’s going on in Washington, I think we can do better, and possibly win.”
Neu wasn’t surprised by Latta’s support of President Trump’s tax bill. “But in the long-term, it’s going to hurt the middle class,” he said. “Ultimately, the middle class is going to pay for the tax breaks that the upper one percent enjoy.”
He’s also disappointed that Latta hasn’t spoken up about the U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs against China. “If the trade war does go into effect it’s going to affect the family farmers in northwest Ohio and the consumers,” he said. “We’re a very rural district. They tend to vote for Mr. Latta, so, ultimately, we’re going to pay the price.”
It doesn’t help matters that Latta won’t converse with his constituents, Neu said.
“He has tele-town hall meetings,” he said. “If it’s not what he wants to talk about, your question doesn’t get answered. And when he does meet people, it’s one-on-one. I don’t think that’s effective.”
If elected, Neu promises he will meet with leaders from both parties, “and explain to them that I’m here to accomplish what the citizens in my district want done, and I’m willing to reach across the aisle to accomplish that.”
He would also focus on ensuring that all Americans retain the right and ability for quality health care. He advocates keeping what works within the Affordable Care Act and tossing out what doesn’t.
And Neu is for renegotiating the country’s free trade deals.
“It’s hard to compete in the local economy when people (in other countries) are paid less and don’t follow the same rules,” he said. “It would level the playing field and cause the jobs going overseas to stop.”
He would also like to see a “true” infrastructure overhaul across the U.S.
“If you have a quality infrastructure, companies will want to invest in your area,” Neu said. “There’s no reason we can’t have mass transit like foreign countries. That will spur millions and millions of jobs. And the piggyback on that would be spending or funding on increased trade schools. We have a lack of skilled trade workers.”
What Neu wants voters to know is that, as an automotive worker, he identifies with the common workers of northwest Ohio.
”I know when times are bad, I’ve had to make tough choices. I can relate to the middle class,” he said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.