WASHINGTON -- Two longtime Ohio House Democrats will face off against each other in 2012, victims of a redistricting process that combined their congressional seats.
On Wednesday, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) filed paperwork to run in the newly created 9th district. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), the longest-serving woman in the House, filed her papers on Monday.
Because of the population losses recorded by the 2010 U.S. Census, Ohio lost two congressional districts and the borders of the remaining districts were redrawn. The new map combines the districts of Kaptur, who represents what is currently the 9th district, and Kucinich, who represents the 10th.
"My political base is in the district. My house is in the district. There are 40 years of work in the district. I have a lot of supporters in the district. It makes sense from every standpoint," Kucinich told The Huffington Post when asked why he decided to run in the newly created 9th district. "All the work I've done in servicing people has been in the area that's in the Cleveland part of the district over the many years, and I have a strong base of support there."
Kaptur told The Hill that her "ability to reach consensus and to work with a broad range of interests toward achieving very specific goals for our region and for the country" distinguishes her from Kucinich.
When asked how he would differentiate himself from Kaptur, Kucinich replied, "First of all, this is not a race where I'm running against anyone. I'm going to present my record as someone who has worked in the district to save jobs and create jobs, to provide services for people.
He stressed his office's work at the local level, noting that he and his staffers fulfill more than 10,000 requests for service every year on issues ranging from Social Security, Medicare, veterans issues and immigration.
"The decisions that are made locally often turn on what you've done for people," he said. "Have you delivered for them? Have you helped them with their unique and personal concerns? That's the approach I've taken in the time I've been in Congress in the district. I wouldn't expect Washington media to be particularly familiar with that. But because I've taken that position and because I've taken that path, I have a lot of supporters here. People will support me no matter what."
On larger national issues, Kucinich argued his positions speaking out against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are growing more popular, giving him a growing constituency.
"I've been often a singular spokesman in challenging these wars and trying to set America on a direction away from domination to cooperation and using the resources of the country to create jobs for all, and health care for all, and education for all and retirement security. So I think that the years of work that I have been involved in in Washington, that actually the times have moved in my direction," he said.
"People are more willing to listen to someone who has challenged the wars," he continued. "People are more willing to listen to someone who has challenged the erosion of civil liberties. People are more willing to listen to someone who says look, we shouldn't be extending ourselves all over the world, and should start taking care of things here at home. These are things that I've talked about over the years. My constituency keeps growing."
Kucinich had previously considered running out of state -- possibly in the Seattle area -- if he did not believe he could win on Ohio's new map. There was also speculation that he would run against Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) in the 11th district, since she is already facing a Democratic challenger.
According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, "Kaptur's existing constituents account for 47 percent of the new district, or about 50,000 more than from the area Kucinich currently represents. Another 96,000 residents -- 13 percent -- come from Rep. Betty Sutton's soon-to-be-splintered district. If there is a silver lining for Kucinich, it's that the Republican-drawn map leaves intact his base, including Lakewood, Parma and portions of Cleveland's West Side neighborhoods."
Republican Steven Kraus, an auctioneer from Sandusky, has already filed paperwork to run in the new 9th district on the GOP side, and Samuel Wurzelbacher -- better known as "Joe the Plumber" -- is expected to submit his documents on Wednesday.
Neither Kucinich nor Kaptur has run in a close general election in a long time. Kaptur won her last election by an 18 percent margin, while Kucinich won with 11 percent. As the Associated Press noted, what remains to be seen is how influential Democrats and labor unions decide which of the two Democratic candidates to back.
Recently released public documents show that the office of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and operatives at the National Republican Congressional Committee were closely involved in drawing Ohio's new congressional districts. Currently, Republicans hold 13 of Ohio's 18 congressional districts. Under the new map, 12 of the 16 seats are expected to favor the GOP.
This story was updated with comments from Kucinich.
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