Redistricting forces Ohio Democrats into primary fight

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 06, 2012 11:28 AM
Redistricting forces Ohio Democrats into primary fight

By George Tanber

TOLEDO, Ohio (Reuters) - He is a liberal gadfly who captured that national spotlight with his demands for the impeachment of President George W. Bush. She is the longest serving woman in Congress and a haymaker in the perennial federal budget process.

On Tuesday, as most of the country's attention is focused on the Republican's "Super Tuesday" presidential primary in 10 states, voters in northern Ohio will decide which of these two Democrats -- Cleveland's Dennis Kucinich and Toledo's Marcy Kaptur -- will end a long congressional career.

The fight between Kucinich and Kaptur is also the first of about a dozen contests in the next few months that will match House incumbents against each other due to redistricting in states that include Illinois, Missouri and Arizona.

The Ohio redistricting by the Republican-dominated state legislature, which was contested by Democrats, created an oddly shaped district that stretches along the Lake Erie shore from Toledo to just east of Cleveland, forcing a primary race between the two long-time colleagues.

The winner on Tuesday could face Republican Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, better known as "Joe the Plumber," who was hurled into the spotlight in the 2008 presidential race after he pressed then presidential candidate Barack Obama on tax policy. Wurzelbacher is running in the Republican primary against Steve Kraus.

Kucinich, 65, is considered one of the most liberal members of the House. At 23, he was elected to the Cleveland City Council and was the city's "boy mayor" from 1977 to 1979. He has served in Congress since 1997, and ran for the Democratic nomination for president in 2004 and 2008.

Kucinich opposed the Iraq war -- so much so that in 2008 he introduced articles of impeachment against Bush alleging misconduct in seeking authorization for the war and forced an impeachment vote on the House floor. The measure failed.

Kucinich also has advocated ending the war on drugs and faced criticism when he said he considered running for Congress in Washington state if redistricting left him without a district.

Kaptur, also, 65, and in Congress since 1983, is the longest serving woman in the House and a member of the influential House Appropriations Committee.

Aside from her primary contest against Kucinich, Kaptur is also vying against fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill to become the committee's ranking minority member to succeed Rep. Norm Dicks, a Washington state Democrat who is retiring from Congress.

Kaptur has won the endorsements of both the Toledo Blade and the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

The one-time friends have been running negative ads against each other, and avoid eye contact with each other when they're in the same room.

Also running in the Democratic primary is Cleveland businessman Graham Veysey.

(Reporting By George Tanber, Mary Wisniewski and Kim Palmer; Editing by Tim Gaynor and Dan Burns)