One of Ohio's most powerful labor leaders is pushing U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur to run for governor next year, and the Toledo Democrat is considering it.
Lloyd Mahaffey, the director of the United Auto Workers in Ohio, said yesterday that he and other UAW officials have told Miss Kaptur for months she'd make "a great governor."
"I've been trying to urge her to run," Mr. Mahaffey said, "and I know other people have, too."
His comments came after Miss Kaptur, a 12-term congressman, told the Associated Press that she's mulling the 2006 race but worries about raising campaign funds and giving up her seniority in Washington.
Miss Kaptur's staff director, Steve Katich, confirmed her interest last night and said it had simmered, without change, for several months.
"It would be foolish not to keep your options open in her situation," Mr. Katich said. But later he added: "Seniority is a very difficult thing to attain in the United States Congress. The congresswoman has to weigh that heavily in any thought process about a statewide race."
Miss Kaptur, he said, was stuck in a committee meeting and not available to comment last night.
Two Democrats have already en-tered the race to replace term-limited Gov. Bob Taft: U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland of southeastern Ohio and former State Rep. Bryan Flannery of Strongsville, who kicked off his campaign formally yesterday with speeches in several cities, including Toledo.
The Republican field includes Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, Auditor Betty Montgomery, and Attorney General Jim Petro.
Miss Kaptur's comments surprised some of her longtime allies, including Toledo Mayor-elect Carty Finkbeiner.
Mr. Finkbeiner said last month that Miss Kaptur was his top choice for governor, but two weeks ago he pledged to unite local Democrats behind Mr. Strickland.
"I would be very surprised myself if Marcy was a candidate in the year 2006," Mr. Finkbeiner said yesterday, noting that he had spoken with Mr. Katich earlier in the day and heard nothing about a potential gubernatorial run.
"I remain a strong backer of Congressman Strickland," he added. "But if Marcy should surprise me and probably a lot of others and indicate that she was serious about that race I would certainly be standing by to help her."
Analysts consider Mr. Strickland the favorite to win the Democratic nomination.
Mr. Mahaffey said his overtures to Miss Kaptur should not diminish the congressman, whom he said he admires "very much."
"I believe in primaries as an individual," Mr. Mahaffey said. "That's the opportunity really to debate issues."
Mr. Strickland said he took no offense.
"Everybody has a right to make up their mind as to who they think is the best person for the governor's office," he said. "I think you can be for someone without being against someone else, and that's the spirit I would take that in."
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