SANDUSKY - Republican Larry Kaczala told voters at an Erie County Chamber of Commerce candidates forum last night he wants to hang a sign in front of Ohio's 9th Congressional District office that reads, "Under New Management."
But he knows unseating U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) won't be an easy task.
Miss Kaptur, the longest-serving Democratic woman in the U.S. House, has been sent to Washington 11 times by district voters and has received at least 74 percent of the vote in all her re-election attempts since 1986.
This time around, Mr. Kaczala believes the outcome can be different. The former Toledo city councilman told about 100 voters at Adams Junior High School in Sandusky his opponent has angered the leadership of both parties in Washington at the expense of her home district.
"Her credibility in Washington is gone," said Mr. Kaczala, pointing to her stance against NAFTA and confrontations with the administrations of President Bush and President Clinton. "In Washington, she can only bring back what we'd get if she wasn't even a congressman. I can bring back more to northwest Ohio."
Miss Kaptur didn't participate in the forum because Congress was in session in Washington yesterday afternoon. She then joined an Ohio Democratic delegation at the vice presidential debate in Cleveland.
In a phone interview last night, she said she's built her career "fighting for the struggles that most families and individuals face." She pointed to her role in gaining funding for the new Maumee River crossing and the expansion of Toledo's Farmers' Market as examples of her achievements. "I fight for the people of our region, and they know that," said Miss Kaptur.
Mr. Kaczala said GOP congressional leaders have told him "the resources Washington has to offer will come back to the district" if he is elected.
Miss Kaptur, though, argues that they never left. And, she said, her opponent is criticizing her record because he doesn't have "an identity on the issues."
"My opponent hasn't served at this level. He hasn't been a lawmaker. He doesn't understand what it takes to accomplish what we've been able to do," she said.
The former city councilman and current Lucas County auditor provides one of the most recognizable candidates Miss Kaptur has faced because he is an elected official.
After 11 years as auditor, Mr. Kaczala said he has a convincing record of achievements, including his support of fuel quality measures and the development of a system that allows residents to check their tax bills online.
"We have awards for being the best of the state in Ohio, the best in the nation, and the best in the world," Mr. Kaczala said.
The two congressional candidates are to go toe to toe Oct. 20 in a one-hour televised debate sponsored by The Blade and WTVG-TV, Channel 13.
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