WASHINGTON -- It's been nine days since Congressman Steve LaTourette announced he would not seek re-election.
"I am relieved. It's like a weight's been lifted off my shoulders," he said, in his first Cleveland broadcast interview since then.
His announcement has brought testimonials and praise from political and community leaders.
"It feels like I'm at my own funeral," he said.
Related story: Web extra: Watch entire interview with LaTourette by WKYC's Tom Beres
Asked if Northeast Ohio would lose clout in Congress because of his looming departure and the need to find another "go-to" person for key Cleveland projects, he said, " Some of the younger members have to step up to the plate...I am not indispensable. There are people in both parties who will get things done for the betterment of Northeast Ohio. It's not like I'm going on the Mars Rover or anything. I will be here and can talk about how we can get things done."
He reiterated his decision to quit after nine terms was not because of committee assignments or a falling out with House Speaker John Boehner.
"It's a personal decision, based on the poisonous atmosphere that exists. And a pox on both parties to be honest. It's not one of the other, the atmosphere exists and I don't think I can get things done for my people. It does take a toll on a person and it's time to let somebody else give it a shot," he said.
He believes it's 50-50 whether Congress would take actions on extending or not extending tax cuts and stopping spending cuts at the end of the year that would have catastrophic economic consequences.
"I am an optimist. I believe Speaker Boehner, if he has a willing dance partner, will make a deal to avert the cliff," he said.
He says he is staying neutral, as up to 20 candidates vie to take his place on the ballot.
Related story: GOP: Who will be LaTourette's replacement?
They are seeking a majority of votes from 14 Republican officials in the seven counties in the 14th District.
"I promised not to blab to the world," he said.
Geauga County Prosecutor David Joyce and former State Representative Matt Dolan are perceived by many to be the leading candidates.
But candidates are staying out of the media spotlight, some say, to avoid being perceived as grandstanding when only 14 votes matter.
LaTourette was seen at a public event this week in the company of Joyce.
"I've known Dave for 26 years. He's a friend of mine. Not one of the 180 people there have a vote. Squiring around to my friends is one thing. That has no impact on what people will do tomorrrow," he said.
State Representative Ron Young told Channel 3 that the process has been closed and frustrating for him, complaining that he's been unable to contact many of the people voting and unable to discuss his positions on the issues.