2009.01.03: January 3, 2009: Headlines: Driehaus: COS - Senegal: Congress: Politics: Cincinnati.com: Public service in Driehaus' blood

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Senegal: Special Report: Congressman and Senegal RPCV Steve Driehaus: 2009.01.03: January 3, 2009: Headlines: Driehaus: COS - Senegal: Congress: Politics: Cincinnati.com: Public service in Driehaus' blood

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Public service in Driehaus' blood

Public service in Driehaus' blood

When Steve Driehaus heard about Teranga World Market, a Hartwell restaurant featuring dishes from Senegal and West Africa, he had to try it. He spent two years in that country while working in the Peace Corps. He walked in and tested his rusty and limited Wolof, the country's language, on the owner. Quickly he discovered she had the same last name as his host family and was from a town three kilometers away from the village where he lived. Turns out her father was his host "uncle." "Do you remember when you were little, a white man coming through your compound, talking to your mom and dad and bringing mangos?" he asked her. "That was me." It's quintessential Driehaus. Senegal RPCV Steve Driehaus was elected to Congress in 2008. Driehaus had served in the Ohio House of Representatives since 2001 and has served as Minority Whip since 2005.

Public service in Driehaus' blood

Public service in Driehaus' blood

Dad once ran for seat Steve won in Nov.

By Sharon Coolidge scoolidge@enquirer.com

January 3, 2009

He comes from a family that has been likened to a West Side version of the Kennedys - large, deeply ingrained in the Democratic Party, serving in the public arena and headed by a family patriarch who wanted to see his children succeed in politics.

Steve Driehaus is seemingly connected to everyone - either by relation or by his outgoing nature - and has dedicated his life to service.

Both will serve him well in the job he starts Tuesday.

But virtually from the moment he upset seven-term Republican Congressman Steve Chabot in November, would-be opponents have been lining up to try to knock him off in 2010.

Combine that with the worst economic climate in decades, and Driehaus and Congress have a tough road ahead.

He will not go to Washington unarmed, though. He is a fiscal conservative, and few will confuse him with a stereotypical "tax and spend" Democrat - and that appeals to West Side sensibilities.

As state representative, Driehaus voted against 49 tax increases, cut taxes for seniors, worked to close corporate-tax loopholes, fought against a sales tax increase and opposed increasing the fuel tax.

"He was a very thoughtful legislator at the state level," a longtime West Side Republican activist, Pete Witte, said. "I expect him to be a conscientious lawmaker in D.C.

"We did not lose a lot in our representation."

Witte, who serves on the Metropolitan Housing Authority board, is a longtime Chabot supporter and grew up knowing the Driehaus family. He found himself working closely with Driehaus over the past eight years.

Though their parties are at odds, Witte respects Driehaus.

"Our lives became entwined to make Price Hill better," Witte said.
In his own words

"I want to be a strong advocate for the region, and I want to be a leader who can reach across party lines, that can reach out to all levels of government and unite people around common issues," Driehaus said. "There will be tremendous challenges we face as a nation and that our state and local governments face."

In November, Driehaus, 42, of West Price Hill, defeated Chabot 52 percent to 48 percent to represent the district that encompasses western Cincinnati, western Hamilton County and four townships in southwest Butler County.

He is one of 24 Democrats - and one of four in Ohio - to gain a seat this past election, giving the Democrats 257 seats, bolstering their majority rule.

Driehaus comes to the job having just finished four terms in the Ohio House of Representatives. His sister, Denise Driehaus, was elected to fill his vacant seat.

In his new job, Driehaus will be living a dream that his father, Don, once chased in 1968 when he ran for the same congressional seat and lost.

"My father felt very deeply that service through public office was a very honorable thing, that you could achieve real change for people through elected office," Driehaus said.

Bipartisanship aside, Hamilton County Republican Party chairman Alex Triantafilou said his party will assuredly try to grab the seat back in two years.

"We don't think he has the right set of values to represent the first district," Triantafilou said. "He is to the left of where the district is."

Triantafilou said possible contenders are state Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Green Township; state Rep. Robert Mecklenborg, R-Green Township, and former Cincinnati City Councilman Nick Vehr. Even Triantafilou's name has been mentioned as a Driehaus opponent.

Chabot won't say whether he'll try to recapture the seat.

He does have advice for his successor, though.

Chabot said constituents of the First District want an independent voice, "somebody who does what they believe is right for the people they represent and the country and not buckle under party leadership."

And as a new member, that pressure will be there, Chabot said.

"You have to let the party leadership know early on you represent your constituents, not the party," Chabot said.
The family Driehaus

Don Driehaus had six brothers and sisters. They had 42 children, of which Steve Driehaus is one of the youngest.

Don Driehaus encouraged community service at an early age, Driehaus' mother, Clare, said.

On two of her eight children holding elected office: "We see this as service, something their father instilled in them," she said. "Steve was always oriented that way, involved in bettering things around us."

From a young age, Driehaus spent his autumns putting up political yard signs and knocking on doors.

He went to Elder High School, the cradle of West Side civilization, and that high school pedigree was the first step on his political ladder. A diploma from there is instant credibility for many West Side voters.

Elder was followed by college at Miami University, where Driehaus graduated with degrees in political science and diplomacy. While there, he studied a year abroad in Luxembourg, where he fell in love twice, first with international affairs, then with his wife, Lucienne, who was in the same program.

After graduation, he joined the Peace Corps, spending two years in Senegal, West Africa.

Driehaus returned to Cincinnati two years later, marrying Lucienne.

He took a job working on the tail end of Charlie Luken's congressional campaign.

When Luken won, Driehaus worked in Luken's Cincinnati office, managing constituent cases.

When Luken didn't run again, Driehaus took a job in Todd Portune's City Council office. He also worked to elect Dwight Tillery, Cincinnati's first elected African-American mayor.

Driehaus then moved with Lucienne to Indiana, where he went to graduate school at Indiana University.

He graduated in 1995 with a master's degree in public affairs with concentrations in public finance and comparative international affairs. He stayed in Bloomington, running programs through the department of international affairs; the couple had their first child, Alex, now 13. Two more would follow: Clare, now 9, and Jack, now 6.
The crossroads

Two years later came a crossroads. Cincinnati community leaders asked Driehaus to join the Community Building Institute, a collaborative effort of Xavier University and United Way & Community Chest that promotes community development.

Should he stay in Indiana? Go overseas? Or come home?

"If we were in the United States, we figured we might as well be on the West Side of Cincinnati ... as we raised our family," Driehaus said.

He was the director of the institute until running for state representative in 2000.

"I decided it was time to put my money where my mouth was and step up and make a difference," said Driehaus, who ran against Republican Tony Condia, a lobbyist for the home builders association.

His oldest daughter was 5.

"We knocked on 10,000 doors," Driehaus said. "When I think back on elections, that time I spent with her going door to door was the best time I ever had."

Driehaus would go on to be elected three more times, eventually serving as House minority whip.

He considered a run against Chabot in 2006, but wanted to continue his work on the state level.

In 2008, it was a different story. Term-limited out, Driehaus wanted to continue in public service. Congress was the next logical step.

Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke said expectations are high, but he's confident that Driehaus will deliver.

"He is going to be asked to do a lot by the city and county and state of Ohio, because everyone is hurting," Burke said. "I recognize Steve Chabot as a decent guy who cares about the community, but now more than ever, our congressman has to make sure we are not overlooked and that we get assistance from the federal government.

"Steve Chabot didn't do that."

The Driehaus family plans to caravan Monday to Columbus, where they will watch Denise Driehaus' swearing-in. Then they'll depart for Washington for his swearing-in.

Only one person will be missing in the Capitol: his father.

Don Driehaus died of pulmonary fibrosis during the campaign.

"My husband would be so excited," Clare Driehaus said. "I know he knew Steve had the capability, if he could just get elected."

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Story Source: Cincinnati.com

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