WASHINGTON, D.C. – Steve Chabot never intended to be a career politician, but he’s now preparing to retire from what’s become his life’s work.
“I was 26-years-old when I first ran for Cincinnati City Council. When this term ends in January, I’ll be turning 70 in January. 26 to 70, that’s long enough. It’s somebody else’s turn,” Chabot told Spectrum News in a lengthy sit-down interview on Capitol Hill last week.
Over the course of 44 years, Chabot has spent 36 of them in elected office. He was a city councilman and Hamilton County Commissioner before starting a 13-term run as the U.S. Representative for Ohio’s 1st Congressional District.
Chabot said his fascination with politics started when he was in college and President Richard Nixon, who Chabot supported, was engulfed in the Watergate scandal.
“A lot of people my age thought, ‘Why would anybody want to go into politics? They’re all a bunch of crooks,’” Chabot said. “And I thought you needed people that were involved in politics for the right reasons, cause they wanted to help their community or the country and were honest. And I thought, I’m going to try to run.”
The Cincinnati Republican kept running – even seeking a 14th term this year.
He was challenged by Democrat Greg Landsman, a city councilman, like Chabot once was, who saw an opportunity when the 1st District was redrawn to become a district President Joe Biden had won.
It became the most competitive Republican-held seat outside of California, and Landsman beat Chabot by five points.
Even though courts have ordered Ohio’s congressional maps to be redrawn for 2024, Chabot said he’s done.
“I have no intention on running again. I plan on retiring,” he told Spectrum News. “You know, politicians, elected officials, they always say they want to spend more time with their families. But I really do want to spend more time with my family – wife, kids, and grandkids.”
Chabot was first elected to Congress in the Newt Gingrich-led “Republican Revolution” of 1994. Of the 73 GOP freshmen who won that year, he’s the last one still serving in the House.
He lost his seat once before, when Barack Obama led a Democratic wave in 2008, but Chabot won it back two years later and has been in office since.
In Congress, he has traveled to dozens of countries as a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and helped create the Paycheck Protection Program during the height of the coronavirus pandemic as the top Republican on the Small Business Committee.
Chabot said his proudest legislative achievement is helping write the “Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003” that President George W. Bush signed into law. The Supreme Court upheld the legislation in 2007.
When House Republicans impeached President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, Chabot was one of the 13 impeachment managers who unsuccessfully tried to convince senators to convict and remove him from office.
Two decades later, Chabot remained on the Judiciary Committee and helped lead the Republican defense of President Donald Trump through both of his impeachments.
Spectrum News asked Chabot what he thinks it says about the United States that, in under 30 years, he has gone through three different presidential impeachments as a sitting lawmaker.
“It says we’re impeaching presidents far too often nowadays,” Chabot said. “I’m afraid that when one party is in now, their base is going to be telling them to go after the other party’s president. And I don’t think that’s healthy for the country.”
Chabot has been an ardent supporter of Trump, even voting against certifying Pennsylvania’s electoral votes on January 6, 2021, after Trump supporters stormed the Capitol.
Despite serving under five presidents, he named just Trump when asked how the Republican Party has changed during his 26 years in Congress.
Spectrum News asked Chabot if Trump becoming the leader of the GOP was ultimately a good thing for the party and for the country.
“I’ll let others determine whether it was a good or bad thing, but his policies have been very good for the country, when he was president,” he said.
Does Chabot want to see Trump remain the leader of the GOP?
“Well, he’s going to run. He already said he was, so we know that. And I think there are going to be others,” Chabot said. “And the Republican voters in the primaries, not next year but the following year, will make that decision. I haven’t made any decision on who I’m going to vote for at this point, but who would care?” he laughed.
This Congress, Chabot voted against the bipartisan infrastructure bill but for the bipartisan gun safety legislation.
He said he has tried to work across the aisle as much as possible, while maintaining his Republican values.
“You can be conservative and still work with the other side, because there are a lot of issues that aren’t necessarily conservative versus liberal, they are right versus wrong,” Chabot said.
He leaves office feeling the American people deserve better from Congress, but that he tried to do his part.
“I think the legacy will be I worked hard and did the best I could. And got some significant legislation passed,” Chabot said.
He will also mark a significant personal milestone next year, when he and his wife Donna celebrate 50 years of marriage.