The 2016 primary campaign for the 9th Congressional District will pit three Republicans against each other — one with an intense interest in nuclear power, one hoping to rein in immigration and foreign trade, and one trying to rescue his political career from his conviction this year for felony theft.
The one person who will try to stay above the fray, at least until after the March 15 primary election, is incumbent U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), who has no primary opposition in her quest for an 18th term.
The elongated 9th District is often cited as one of the worst examples of gerrymandering, the drawing of districts to achieve political ends. It stretches from Toledo to Cleveland, with 38 percent of its voters in Cuyahoga County, 34 percent in Lucas County, and the remaining 28 percent in Lorain, Erie, and Ottawa counties.
Miss Kaptur, who was first elected in 1982, is the senior female member of the House and is the longest serving woman in Congress from Ohio. She is the top-ranking Democrat on the Energy and Water subcommittee, which has jurisdiction in two of the biggest issues in the unfolding campaign.
The three Republicans who filed to compete for the party’s nomination are business consultant Donald Larson, 48, of Lakewood; college professor Joel Lieske, 74, of Bay Village, and auctioneer Steven Kraus, 56, of Sandusky.
Mr. Larson, a Navy veteran who has lived all over the world, has a business consulting company and lobbies in support of modernizing nuclear power. He said nuclear energy offers “unlimited energy for the economy.”
About the Davis-Besse nuclear power station in Ottawa County, he said, “It’s a well-operated, very safe plant that provides a lot of very secure jobs for the district.
“The economic prosperity of the folks in the district has not been a priority of anyone in Washington for a long time,” Mr. Larson said.
Already active in his campaign, he has accused Miss Kaptur of contributing to the algae pollution in Lake Erie by her support of corn ethanol, whose phosphorus fertilizer is seen as the biggest cause of algae growth.
“Politicians like Marcy Kaptur are hell bent on providing corporate welfare to large agricultural corporations to satisfy those that donate to her re-election campaign year after year. The sugar lobby, which is involved in making sugar and ethanol, are very good contributors to Ms. Kaptur’s campaign,” Mr. Larson said.
Miss Kaptur declined, through a spokesman, to reply to Mr. Larson.
“For now, I think families in our region are focused on the holiday season. I will respectfully seek the support of the citizens of the 9th District next year so that I may continue to provide the steady and experienced leadership our citizens deserve,” Miss Kaptur said in a statement.
Mr. Larson has also proposed that Muslims coming into the United States be required to sign a declaration disavowing violent jihad, accepting equal rights for women, accepting secular government, and acknowledging that “Muslims don’t have an exclusive right to ‘heaven.’”
He admitted it might be a political misstep because “the west side of Cleveland and the entirety of Toledo have largish populations of Muslims, and I was warned I may not get elected if I spew Republican rhetoric.”
“That is is not so much a litmus test as it is reaffirming that you will abide by American principles, laws, and values when in America,” Mr. Larson said.
Mr. Larson said he has a master’s degree in nuclear engineering from Ohio State University and a master’s degree in business administration from Case Western Reserve University. He has helped to start a nonprofit, of which he is the executive director, called eGeneration Foundation, and the Thorium and Molten Salt Reactor Association Inc., for which he is a registered lobbyist.
Mr. Lieske, who teaches political parties and elections at Cleveland State University, said he feels nuclear power is unsafe.
“We saw that in the corrosion of the nuclear containment vessel at Davis-Besse. A leak could contaminate the whole 9th District,” Mr. Lieske said.
He is an ardent critic of international trade and what he believes are lax immigration policies that he said have undermined the manufacturing economy in the United States.
“I’m in favor of replacing free trade policies with a policy of economic nationalism that will bring back manufacturing through raising tariffs and protecting American jobs,” Mr. Lieske said. “We’ve seen too many manufacturing jobs go south of the border or over to Asia.”
He said legal and illegal immigrants compete with American workers.
“I love America. I love the American people and I want to put a stop to these suicidal policies that I think are destroying our country. I’ve seen war without end. I’ve seen outsourcing without end, immigration without end, and debt without end. We just can’t continue these policies,” Mr. Lieske said.
A native of Worthington, Minn., he received his undergraduate degree in math and physics at what is now Valparaiso University in Indiana, a master’s degree in political science from the University of Maryland, and a doctoral degree in political science from the University of North Carolina. He’s been on the Cleveland State faculty since 1980. His wife, Karen Lieske, is a Bay Village council member and previously served on Bay Village school board.
Kraus is making a return trip to the 9th District primary.
A Sandusky auctioneer, Kraus is an Air Force veteran of 11 years who was also a military contractor during the Desert Shield and Desert Storm wars. Kraus ran for the Republican nomination in the 9th District in 2012. He lost by fewer than 900 votes in the primary to Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher, who then lost in the general election to Miss Kaptur.
Kraus went on to run for the state House’s 89th House District in 2014, bringing down Democratic incumbent Chris Redfern.
Kraus has an electrical engineering technology degree from Troy State University in Alabama.
He was expelled from the Ohio House in July after he was convicted by an Ottawa County jury of theft from an elderly person, a fifth-degree felony, for taking antiques from a Danbury Township home without the owner’s permission. The conviction does not disqualify him for election to Congress. Kraus’ sentence of two years’ community service was stayed while he appeals his conviction to the Ohio 6th District Court of Appeals.
The appeal contends no crime occurred and that it was a misuse of the statute to prosecute Kraus for theft from an elderly person, the factor that made his conviction a felony.
He said he ran for the Statehouse seat at the request of state party leaders but feels more comfortable with the federal issues that will come up in the 9th District campaign.
“I ran in 2012 because I believe the country was going in the wrong direction and I still do. It’s all about energy independence, smaller government, reining in the overspending. I’m going to make it a lifelong mission to expose public corruption on both sides of the aisle,” Kraus said, contending that his prosecution for theft is an instance of public corruption. “I was knocked off my horse, but I’m getting back up. If the good people of the 9th will have me, I’m volunteering to run.”
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