Democrats, from left, Graham Veysey, Dennis Kucinich, and Marcy Kaptur take part in a 9th District debate on Feb. 24 at Woodward High School in Toledo.
Democratic and Republican voters in a new congressional district that links Toledo and Cleveland go to the polls Tuesday to pick their parties' nominees.
The Democratic ballot features two longtime incumbents -- U.S. Reps. Marcy Kaptur of Toledo and Dennis Kucinich of Cleveland -- along with political newcomer Graham Veysey, of Cleveland. On the Republican side, Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher of Springfield Township faces Huron auctioneer Steven Kraus.
MARCH PRIMARY ELECTION: precinct, ballot information
NORTHWEST OHIO: Voting information by county
The winners of the Democratic and Republican primaries will face off on Nov. 6.
The district includes communities that have long been in Miss Kaptur's area -- eastern Lucas County and portions of Erie and Ottawa counties.
Now it includes northern Lorain County, which neither candidate has represented, and a big chunk of western Cuyahoga County that was in Mr. Kucinich's district.
Miss Kaptur has emphasized her task in getting to know some 300,000 people who live in Cuyahoga County, while Mr. Kucinich vowed to campaign across the length and breadth of the district.
A radio ad released two weeks ago by Mr. Kucinich in Cleveland suggested a geographic rivalry. The narrator compared "Toledo's Kaptur" to "Cleveland's Dennis Kucinich."
Miss Kaptur responded with a radio ad that tried to link Mr. Kucinich with former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy DiMora, who is on trial in Akron for racketeering and bribery. The Kucinich campaign described the ad as "a false smear attack that's straight out of the Republican, Karl Rove playbook."
The 9th District was designed by the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature last year to reduce the number of congressional districts from 18 to 16 as the result of the state's stagnant population compared to other parts of the country in the latest census.
The congressional district includes most of Toledo except for wards in the northwest and southwest parts of the city. It also includes Oregon and the townships of Washington and Jerusalem. The rest of Lucas County has been put into the 5th Congressional District represented by Republican Bob Latta of Bowling Green.
Numerically, Mr. Kucinich has an advantage because there are more registered Democrats in the Cuyahoga County portion of the district than in the rest of the district.
Miss Kaptur has sought to compensate by campaigning intensively in Lorain and Cuyahoga counties and using the bigger campaign war chest that she had saved up.
For her part in establishing the World War II Memorial in Washington, she received the endorsement of actor Tom Hanks, star of the blockbuster war movie Saving Private Ryan. And she has boasted of her success in bringing money to modernize the Air National Guard base at Toledo Express Airport and build the Glass City Veterans Memorial Skyway in Toledo.
"I'm the jobs Democrat in the race," she said, also stressing her role on the House Appropriations Committee. "I serve on the committee that really matters."
If elected, she is expected to be the senior Democrat.
Formerly a city planner who had worked in the administration of President Jimmy Carter, Miss Kaptur, 65, made her first run for office in 1982, which she won. She then racked up a record of re-elections with an average majority of 72 percent of the vote.
She held fund-raisers, drawing support from political action committees and lobbyists in Washington, many of them associated with labor unions, defense and transportation-related industries, and the solar power industry.
"The battleground's primarily been in Lorain," said campaign manager Steve Fought. "It's been fierce in Lorain because that was new territory for both of them." Mr. Fought said the final days of the campaign will include a radio ad that urges a strong turnout in Toledo with the slogan "March 6 is for Marcy."
Mr. Kucinich, 65, was elected mayor of Cleveland when he was 31 and served three tumultuous years, during which he successfully fought to keep the municipal power system from being sold. He has also served in the Cleveland City Council and the Ohio Senate. He ran for, and was elected to, the 10th Congressional District in 1996.
He ran for the Democratic nomination for president in 2004 and 2008, establishing for himself a national fan base that admired his opposition to the war in Iraq and his attempt to launch impeachment proceedings against President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
"If I am known outside of Cleveland, it is because of two reasons: my willingness to stand up and speak out on matters of war and peace and two, my advocacy for the rights of working men and women," he has said.
He said his status as the ranking Democrat on the House Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs puts him in a position to keep a close eye on the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant near Oak Harbor.
Mr. Kucinich has issued fund-raising appeals and has filled up his campaign war chest with contributions largely from individuals around the country -- but especially in Southern California. Country musician Willie Nelson threw a benefit in Lorain for Mr. Kucinich.
The congressman said he wants to spend money on rebuilding infrastructure to "put millions of Americans back to work." And he touted his success in constituent service, saying, "I've delivered for our area."
As of Feb. 15, Miss Kaptur had spent $514,263 and still had $422,911 cash on hand. Mr. Kucinich had spent $757,331 and had $250,407 cash on hand.
Adding to the complexity of the race, a Houston-based super-PAC has spent about $200,000 to support Mr. Kucinich and defeat Miss Kaptur. The Campaign for Primary Accountability says it is supporting Mr. Kucinich because of his record of being independent, despite their odd fit on the issues. Mr. Kucinich supported the national health-care law, while the PAC's main funder, Leo Linbeck III, was the vice chairman of the Health Care Compact Alliance whose goal is to return health care to the level of state government.
The PAC ran negative TV and radio ads that accused Miss Kaptur of living in a "fancy condo" in suburban Washington rather than the small Reynolds Corners house that she shares with her brother, Steve Kaptur.
Mr. Fought called the PAC a "very well-funded Republican dirty trick" aimed at softening up the 9th District for Mr. Wurzelbacher in the general election.
PAC spokesman Curtis Ellis said that claim is "poppycock." He said the campaign's only interest is in making sure people get out to vote in the primary because, as a result of the district's strong Democratic registration, "whoever the Democratic nominee is in November will win."
Mr. Veysey, 29, a video production entrepreneur, has run a vigorous campaign, including numerous trips to Toledo where he highlighted high rates of poverty or shook hands with arriving shift workers at the Jeep assembly plant.
His lone TV ad touts him as the "none of the above" candidate and the only one who has endorsed the independent Bowles-Simpson commission plan to begin lowering the $15 trillion national debt that is now on track to reach $26 trillion in 10 years.
On the Republican side, Mr. Wurzelbacher has largely ignored his lesser known opponent, Mr. Kraus, concentrating on building a campaign organization for the general election. Often dressed in jeans, boots, and a beige jacket, Mr. Wurzelbacher said he is running as the representative of working people.
Both he and Mr. Kraus are Air Force veterans.
Mr. Wurzelbacher became a nationally admired figure on the right and in Tea Party circles for his impromptu front-lawn 2008 debate with Barack Obama, then running for president, and is expected to attract substantial contributions in the general election if he wins the nomination on Tuesday.
Mr. Kraus has said that "career politicians" were driving the country over a cliff and that Americans should be armed against "a government that is out of control."
In the 5th Congressional District, voters are presented with a rerun of 2010 when Mr. Latta was opposed by Robert Wallis of Convoy, in Van Wert County, a contest that Mr. Latta won. Angela Zimmann, of Springfield Township, a Lutheran minister and instructor at Bowling Green State University, is unopposed for the Democratic nomination for the 5th District.
Republican voters also will decide on a Republican candidate to run against incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown for the U.S. Senate.
The candidates are Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel of Beachwood; David W. Dodt of Defiance; Donna K. Glisman Graytown; Eric LaMont Gregory Beavercreek; and Michael L. Pryce of Hudson. Russell P. Bliss, Jr., of Willoughby, Ohio, is a write-in candidate.
Of the GOP field, Mr. Mandel has raised $5.2 million as of Dec. 31 and has the backing of incumbent Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) and other Republican leaders.
Two candidates are competing for the Green Party's nomination for the Senate seat -- Joseph DeMare of Bowling Green and Anita Rios of Toledo. Both are on the ballot as write-ins.
Contact Tom Troy at email@example.com or 419-724-6058.