House & Senate Races

Rep. Kaptur Faces Joe The Plumber In November Race

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In Ohio, Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Toledo won the Democratic primary against Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Cleveland after the state's 9th Congressional District was redraw. Now she's turning her sights on Republican primary winner Samuel Wurzelbacher, who's known as Joe the Plumber.


One of the out-sized names in Congress will not be back next year. Democratic Representative Dennis Kucinich was defeated in Ohio's primary this past Tuesday. Another Congress member, Marcy Kaptur beat Kucinich for the Democratic nomination. And Marcy Kaptur now turns her sights to the November election where she'll challenge a Republican opponent with a familiar face and a famous moniker, Joe the Plumber. From member station WKSU Kevin Niedermier reports.

KEVIN NIEDERMIER, BYLINE: Kaptur and Kucinich battled each other in the primary, because their districts were redrawn, putting them in competition. Now Kaptur, the senior Democrat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, takes her reputation for bringing home federal dollars into a face-off with Sam Wurzelbacher. He became a celebrity in 2008, when he questioned candidate Barack Obama about his tax plan during a campaign stop.

SAM WURZELBACHER: Your new tax plan is going to tax me more.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, here's what's going to happen.

NIEDERMIER: After that event, Wurzelbacher picked up the nickname Joe the Plumber, and reminds people of that working class status by wearing a plaid flannel shirt, work pants, and boots at many campaign appearances. He reached the general election by defeating auctioneer Steven Kraus in Tuesday's Republican primary.

The district he and Kaptur are trying to win was designed by Ohio Republican lawmakers to be heavily Democratic to protect Republican chances in other parts of the state. Kaptur expects to win, because Wurzelbacher is so out of step with her constituents.

REPRESENTATIVE MARCY KAPTUR: Well, you know, I think if you look at the primary results, he had a very, very tough primary campaign. He barely made it thru. So I think he's going to have his own issues dealing with the electorate as he moves forward. And I think the nature of the District is quite different than his value set.

NIEDERMIER: But Wurtzelbacher disagrees, that being a political minority in the Democratic district is a disadvantage.

WURZELBACHER: Democrat, Republican, you know, it's something that the media uses to try to divide us as Americans. I live in a very large, obviously Democratic community, lot of union members, all really good friends of mine. And, you know, we agree on a lot of things, and ultimately what it comes down to we want jobs, we want security, we want stability.

So that's how I plan to get my message out there, is let them know I'm not working for the Republican Party or Republicans, I'm working for the American people, and that includes all of us.

NIEDERMIER: Wurzelbacher calls himself a conservative, and campaigns on lower taxes, protecting the Constitution and strengthening national security. And he was endorsed by former Republican presidential candidate, Herman Cain. In the primary, Wurzelbacher spent just under $60,000, and will likely be heavily out-spent by Kaptur in the general election.

For NPR News, I'm Kevin Niedermier.

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