CLEVELAND (AP) — U.S. Reps. Dennis Kucinich and Marcy Kaptur jumped into re-election campaigns in the same newly redrawn congressional district across northern Ohio on Wednesday, setting up a primary fight next year between two veteran Democratic incumbents.
The district stretches alongside Lake Erie from Kucinich’s hometown of Cleveland to Kaptur’s political base in Toledo.
The eight-term Kucinich announced his move in an email asking supporters to help his campaign in the new district, which he says favors him because 57 percent of registered Democrats come from his old district. Kucinich had toyed with the idea of running in Washington state.
Kaptur said in a telephone interview from Washington that she would highlight help she has provided on a low-profile basis for projects in the Cleveland area, including a new veterans hospital and efforts to save jobs at the NASA Glenn Research Center.
Kaptur said she had talked with Kucinich on Tuesday about her political plans and said there were no hard feelings between them. “We are friends. This is hard for us,” she said.
Ohio is losing two of its 18 U.S. House seats in the redistricting process because of declining population.
Kucinich, without mentioning Kaptur, told supporters he was stunned that the new district included so much of his political base. He said most of the Republican part of his old district was divided among three Republican incumbents.
“With your help I clearly have a good chance to be able to continue to serve the people of Ohio and to remain a strong and outspoken voice for jobs, peace, clean water and clean air, education and civil rights,” he said.
In Columbus, House Speaker William Batchelder, a Republican, said he didn’t know whether the district would favor Kaptur or Kucinich but added, “I know that whoever serves that district in all likelihood will be a member of the Democratic Party.”
Kaptur’s spokesman, Steve Fought, said the district map could be changed a bit before final approval by state lawmakers but added, “It will likely look a lot like it looks now.”
Kucinich, a two-time presidential candidate and former Cleveland mayor, has a progressive following and visited Washington state for several recent political events to raise his profile.
Kucinich has earned a reputation as a maverick with strong anti-war views and a quirky streak.
He has called for creating a “Department of Peace” and wanted to impeach former Vice President Dick Cheney, an effort opposed by House Democratic leaders.
Kaptur, the longest-serving Democratic woman in the House, was first elected to Congress in 1982.
She’s wildly popular among union workers and laborers in her district. Labor leaders urged her to run for governor in 2006, but she decided to stay in Congress.
Never afraid to speak her mind or take on party leaders, she openly criticized former President Bill Clinton for his support of the North American Free Trade Agreement in the 1990s, saying it cost Ohio thousands of jobs.