Candidates for Congress quiet on social issues but each adheres to firm positions

The Rev. Martin Otto Zimmann and his wife, the Rev. Angela Zimmann, talk to Dr. Mahjabeen Islam, president of the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo. Ms. Zimmann is running for Congress.
The Rev. Martin Otto Zimmann and his wife, the Rev. Angela Zimmann, talk to Dr. Mahjabeen Islam, president of the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo. Ms. Zimmann is running for Congress.

The campaigns for northwest Ohio's two U.S. congressional seats have been largely devoid of social issues, with the major candidates focused on the economy and how to create more jobs.

Candidate positions on two sometimes contentious issues — gay marriage and abortion — are not addressed on any of the Republican or Democratic candidates’ campaign Web sites in the 5th and 9th congressional districts. But each of the candidates have firm positions on those two issues, and the incumbents have vote histories on the issues as well.

In the 5th District, U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green) supported the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman. When asked where he stands on abortion, he said he was pro-life, and he has a consistent record on the issue.

“Current law, and legislation that I have continuously supported, prohibits government funds from being used to pay for abortions with the exceptions of rape, incest, or if the life of the mother is in danger,” he said in a statement.

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Challenger Angela Zimmann (D., Springfield Township), has likely the most pro-choice position of any of the major congressional candidates in the area. She says she personally opposes abortion, but doesn't feel the government has the right to make that decision for others, even late in a pregnancy.

“As a mother and foster mother who personally opposes abortion, I find the late-term procedure to be particularly horrific,” she said in a statement, “however, these difficult and deeply personal medical issues are best decided between a woman and her doctor.”

Ms. Zimmann is a pastor for the Southeast Michigan Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has approved the ordination of homosexual clergy members and the blessings of same-sex unions.

She frames her position on gay marriage around keeping government small, considering the Defense of Marriage Act an overreach of the federal government, and said the U.S. Supreme Court should rule it unconstitutional.

When asked if she supports her church’s stance on homosexual clergy and the same-sex unions, she referred to the church’s social statement, which notes a lack on consensus on the issues, but encourages members to have respect for the beliefs of others.

The newly redrawn 5th District takes in all or parts of 14 northwest Ohio counties, including parts of South and West Toledo and all of western Lucas County.

In the 9th District, which stretches from Toledo through Erie, Ottawa, and Lorain counties to west Cleveland in Cuyahoga County, incumbent U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) voted in 1996 in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act. However, she is now a co-sponsor to the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the 1996 law.

Miss Kaptur supports civil unions “as a matter of civil rights,” according to her chief of staff, Steve Katich. She believes that marriage is the “constitutionally assigned purview of the states.”

Her opponent holds a similar position. Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher (R., Springfield Township), said that he believes gay marriage should be a decision left up to the states.

“I think that should be a state issue and not a federal issue,” he said.

On abortion, however, the two diverge. Mr. Wurzelbacher calls himself “100 percent pro-life,” though he does make some exceptions. Cases where a woman’s health is in danger, he said, should be left up to the woman and her doctor. But in instances of rape, which he calls a tragedy, he opposes allowing abortions.

“Rapists are the ones that need to be aborted,” he said, “not the baby.”

Miss Kaptur has a mixed record on abortion. For example, she has supported bans on partial birth abortions, but she has also opposed restricting interstate transport of minors for abortions. In general, though, she considers such issues “decisions of conscience ... [that] belong to each family, they belong to each woman,” she said in a recent debate with Mr. Wurzelbacher.

— Nolan Rosenkrans