Chronicle Editorial

Latham’s legacy one to learn from


     Iowa will soon be one leader short after long-time Congressman Tom Latham announced last week he won’t seek re-election in 2014. Latham’s career included 10 terms in three different districts, and his many years of service will certainly remain fresh in the memories of Iowans for the forseeable future.

     Whoever succeeds Latham in District 3 has some big shoes to fill. He was well-liked here in Iowa and in Washington D.C., and he accrued a considerable amount of political clout during his two decades in the U.S. House of Representatives. He served as a member on the powerful House Appropriations Committee in addition to his many other subcommittee positions and leadership roles. Latham was – and still is – a strong voice for Iowa, and he represented our state well during his tenure.

     Latham serves as breath of fresh air in the modern age of American politics. Representatives with common sense and civility seem to be drowned out by blowhards from both sides of the aisle these days, and compromise is undoubtedly lacking in the nation’s capitol. Latham’s moderate approach provided some stability to the turbulent political tide that’s shackled progress in Congress for more than five years. He was part of a core group of moderate Republicans and Democrats that actually cooperated along bipartisan lines, and that’s something other politicians should take note of.

     Latham’s decision to close the books on his Congressional career holds bit of sentimental value here in Franklin County. Originally from Alexander, he was the first person to seek a federal office from our county since the 1940s when he entered the 1994 campaign. He’s won election in three different districts since his first victory – 5, 4 and 3, respectively. Though he’s since moved away from the area to become more centrally located to his constituency, Franklin County is lucky to have such a prominent and well-liked native son. He’s no longer our representative, but he carried our banner dutifully when he was.

     Latham’s announced exit was yet another blow to the political terrain here in Iowa. We just recently lost a seat in the House following 2010 district realignment, and the state will lose a powerful leader in the U.S. Senate when Tom Harkin wraps up his career in 2015. Current Congressman Bruce Braley will most likely win Harkin’s former seat, making him a junior Senator with little power. Braley’s former seat will go to yet another fresh face, leaving Steve King, Dave Loebsack and Chuck Grassley as the state’s only strong voices in the legislative branch. Simply put, Iowa is losing a whole lot of pull in Washington.

     Uncertain waters await the Hawkeye State in coming years. However, we’ve been fortunate to have such prominent and well-respected legislators like Latham represent us throughout the years. His leadership will be missed, and we can only hope his successor follows the same political blueprint that made him so successful in Washington. Latham was humble, smart and moderate, but most of all, he was logical. In an age of political disorder and uncertainty, common sense like Latham’s is a virtue that should be acknowledged, how ever rare it may be.