Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D)
Ohio 9th District
Toledo was one of America’s boomtowns in the 1920s, “a decade of fabulous figures,” as historian Harlan Hatcher wrote. The Willys-Overland plant employed 25,000 workers and turned out an automobile every 30 seconds. The Libbey-Owens-Ford merger made Toledo, with local supplies of natural gas and sand, the nation’s largest glass manufacturer. The city built docks for coal and iron-ore shipments and later erected an airport that could handle transcontinental flights. Toledo had long been well situated, where the Maumee River empties into Lake Erie, where two dozen rail lines connected it with the East Coast, Chicago, and the coal fields of Kentucky and West Virginia. It was well positioned to be a center of the brash auto industry and became a national leader when it first produced the Jeep in the 1940s. During World War II, it also produced aircraft parts, rockets and other military equipment. But by the early 1980s, the domestic auto industry was faltering, as foreign competitors brought to the market better, lower-maintenance cars that were more economical to drive. Toledo and other auto-dependent cities went through tough times.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
But revival was on the way. Toledo’s small manufacturers in search of markets showed energy and ingenuity. Sport utility vehicles were invented here, and the city produced one of America’s hottest vehicles, the Jeep Cherokee. The old Jeep plant was set to close, but the city offered Chrysler $300 million in incentives to stay, and a new plant was built along Interstate 75. For years, the Jeep Liberty and Jeep Wrangler factories here were barely able to meet demand. Then, with competition and higher gasoline prices, the good times ended. In 2007, Jeep eliminated its third shift and 750 workers, and the following year, Chrysler dropped the second shift at the same plant. The continuing loss of auto and other manufacturing jobs took a toll. In 2008, the Milken Institute ranked Toledo 194th among 200 cities in job growth; most of the other bottom cities were in Ohio and Michigan.
The 9th Congressional District of Ohio is centered on Toledo, spreading east through the flatlands of Ottawa and Erie counties on the Lake Erie shore and inland to southern Lorain County southwest of Cleveland. It includes Oberlin, home of Oberlin College, founded in 1833 and the first American college to admit women and blacks. Port Clinton, on Lake Erie, bills itself as the “Walleye Capital of the World” and drops a plastic walleye in place of a glittering ball on New Year’s Eve. Sandusky is home to the giant Cedar Point amusement park, with some of the country’s fastest roller coasters. Not far away is Milan, birthplace of the great inventor and capitalist Thomas Edison. Politically, Toledo has been heavily Democratic since CIO unions organized the plants in the late 1930s. The collapse of the auto industry so unnerved the district it voted for Republican Ronald Reagan in 1980 and elected a Republican congressman, but it switched back to the Democrats in 1982 and has stayed with them in almost every election since. In 2008, the district voted 62% to 36% for Democratic candidate Barack Obama.
Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D)
Elected: 1982, 14th term.
Born: June 17, 1946, Toledo .
Education: U. of WI, B.A. 1968, U. of MI, M.A. 1974, M.I.T., 1981-82.
Professional Career: Urban planner, Lucas Cnty. Planning Comm., 1969–75; Urban planning consultant, 1975–77; White House Asst. Dir. for Urban Affairs, 1977–80; Dpty. secy., Natl. Consumer Coop. Bank, 1980–81; Author.
The congresswoman from the 9th District is Marcy Kaptur, a Democrat first elected in 1982. She is now the most-senior woman among Democrats in the House, a distinction not lost on her in her occasional clashes with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Kaptur grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood in Toledo, the daughter of Polish-American parents who worked at local auto plants. The family also operated a small grocery store, but her father sold it to get a job with health benefits. “It broke his heart,” she said. She has spent almost her entire career in public service. She and her brother, Steve, live in the house where they grew up. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin, the first in her family to attend college, got a master’s degree from the University of Michigan, then spent eight years as an urban planner in Toledo. She worked on urban revitalization in the Carter White House, returning home in 1980 with thoughts of running for elected office. That year, Republican Ed Weber defeated 26-year Democratic incumbent Thomas Ashley. In 1982, when no other Democrat would run against Weber, she did and won 58%-39% despite being outspent 3-to-1.
|Marcy Kaptur (D)||222,054||(74%)||($501,404)|
|Bradley Leavitt (R)||76,512||(26%)|
|Marcy Kaptur (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (74%), 2004 (68%), 2002 (74%), 2000 (75%), 1998 (81%), 1996 (77%), 1994 (75%), 1992 (74%), 1990 (78%), 1988 (81%), 1986 (78%), 1984 (55%), 1982 (58%)
Kaptur is a plainspoken, old-fashioned Democrat and dedicated opponent of free trade. She has long been convinced that Toledo and places like it have lost jobs and industry because of unfair trade practices and low-wage competition from countries like Mexico and China. She pressured the Japanese to buy more American auto parts, but has been leery of Japanese investment in the United States. Kaptur was probably Congress’s most dedicated opponent of the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement. She criticized Democratic President Bill Clinton for doing nothing for sagging U.S. industries and for ignoring Democrats opposed to NAFTA. She became something of a national figure in 1995, when she appeared before Texas businessman Ross Perot’s United We Stand party and made a rousing speech on trade that had delegates cheering. Perot, running as a third-party candidate for president in 1996, offered her the vice presidential nomination a year later, but she turned it down. She was a vocal opponent of normal trade relations with China and of expanded free-trade negotiating powers for President George W. Bush, and she predicted that the 2005 Central American Free Trade Agreement would destroy jobs in Ohio. She backed a resolution calling for the United States to withdraw from the World Trade Organization, citing “the $600 billion trade deficit and the fact that these trade agreements are hollowing out our country.”
Reflecting on those early trade wars years later, Kaptur criticized Pelosi’s support of NAFTA. “That’s where the real knife was put in the flesh,” she said. When Pelosi announced in May 2007 an agreement with Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson on principles for international trade policy, an uninvited Kaptur glared from the back of the room. “It was quite disappointing to see that our leadership talked to the White House and Republican leadership before they talked to the Democratic Caucus,” Kaptur complained. In 2002, she ran a quixotic, one-day campaign for minority leader against Pelosi but, predictably, got nowhere against the powerful California Democrat. In 2008, Kaptur challenged Pelosi ally Xavier Becerra of California for the leadership post of Democratic Caucus vice chairman and lost badly, 175-67.
Kaptur has a liberal voting record but departs from party orthodoxy on abortion—she opposes funding for abortion and embryonic-stem-cell research, which uses excess cells from in vitro fertilizations. She is a strong advocate of alternative energy sources such as ethanol and biofuels for Ohio. Strongly opposed to the war in Iraq, Kaptur and Texas Republican Kay Granger in 2005 became the first women to serve on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. Kaptur gave up the senior Democratic slot on the Agriculture Subcommittee to make the move.
She keeps close tabs on her district. A constituent gave her the idea to sponsor the legislation that authorized the World War II Memorial on the Washington Mall. On the Appropriations Committee, she has focused on improvements to bridges, roads, and rail and port facilities in her district. Kaptur is unabashed about working to secure spending earmarks in the appropriations bills for her district, a practice that has come under harsh criticism in recent years. In 2007, she earmarked $77 million for projects back home and ranked 25th among the top earmark recipients in the House, according to the group Taxpayers for Common Sense. She once challenged Republicans on the committee to limit farm payments, but when they threatened her favorite spending projects, she backed off. “I may be blockheaded sometimes, but I’m not stupid,” Kaptur said.
She is proud of her role as a successful woman in what is still a male-dominated realm and has pushed for more portraits and statues of women in the Capitol. She also wrote a book on women in Congress. She is exceedingly popular in Toledo and is rarely seriously challenged at election time. In 2004, her Republican opponent, Lucas County Auditor Larry Kaczala, criticized Kaptur for comparing terrorist Osama bin Laden to American revolutionaries. But Kaptur won 68%-32%.