By Julie Carr Smyth The Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Former Republican U.S. Sen. George Voinovich, a two-term Ohio governor who preached frugality in his personal and public life and occasionally bucked the GOP establishment, died Sunday. He was 79.
Voinovich, considered a moderate who opposed the size of former President George W. Bush’s tax cuts and later questioned Bush’s war strategy in Iraq, died peacefully in his sleep, his wife, Janet, confirmed. His death came as a surprise to friends, who said he seemed strong despite recent health struggles.
He delivered public remarks Friday at a 25th Slovenian Independence Day event at Cleveland City Hall. He was to have been a delegate to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland next month.
Bush’s father, former President George H.W. Bush, said Voinovich was one of his closest political allies and a “quintessential public servant,” who “brought people together, focused on results, and left his state and our country a better place.”
During his 12 years in the Senate, Voinovich occasionally found himself at odds with Republican conservatives. He was an early supporter of a proposed federal bailout for the auto industry, which employs thousands of people in Ohio, and he was the rare Republican during the Bush administration to suggest raising taxes to pay for the war in Iraq and hurricane relief.
Voinovich announced in early 2009 that he would not run for a third Senate term. He said he wanted to retire to spend more time with his family.
Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish said Voinovich had continued to advocate projects that made life better for people in northeast Ohio.
His integrity and toughness were common themes in condolences that poured in from Republicans and Democrats at the local, state and federal levels. Cincinnati Republican Rob Portman, who succeeded Voinovich in the Senate, said he “exemplified everything good about public service.”