The impact of congressional redistricting across the United States this year will likely be felt for the first time on Tuesday, when Reps. Dennis Kucinich and Marcy Kaptur, both Democrats, battle it out for Ohio's reconfigured 9th District.
The race has been largely overshadowed by the state's Republican presidential primary; Ohioans will cast ballots along with voters in nine other Super Tuesday states. However, it could potentially lead to the end of a congressional career for either of the longtime members of the House, both of whom have resorted to scathing political attacks despite having been close allies in Congress with similar voting records.
Ohio's Republican-controlled legislature drew Kucinich and Kaptur into one congressional district after the state lost two seats in the 2010 Census as a result of population changes. Although Kucinich feared the process would cut out his own Cleveland-based district altogether -- leading him, briefly, to consider running for a seat in Washington state -- part of it was ultimately preserved. Still, it was Kaptur who really benefited, since the new map added more of her current Toledo-based constituents to the new district.
Districts are redrawn every 10 years to reflect population changes recorded by the U.S Census.
Although there are no official polls tracking the congressional race, indications are that the two candidates will be neck-and-neck on Tuesday. Kucinich, an eight-term congressman and a nationally recognized progressive icon, has received considerably more financial support from individuals -- 95 percent of his campaign contributions have come from such donors, with 65 percent of those consisting of small contributions of $200 or less, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
On the other hand, only 28 percent of Kaptur's campaign funding has come from individuals, while contributions from political action committees have accounted for a significant 72 percent. Kaptur, who is in her 15th term, is one of the longest-serving women in the House and a senior member of the powerful Appropriations Committee.
Kaptur's campaign has attempted to frame her as a workhorse who is more capable of delivering results for constituents in Ohio than her rival. Kaptur furthered that sentiment in an interview with the Associated Press when she implied Kucinich is more interested in his national profile than in serving those who elected him.
His focus has wandered, Kaptur said. He's run for president twice. He promised his constituents the first time he wouldn't run again, but then he did run again. ... He doesn't deliver for northern Ohio.
Although both of the Democrats initially held back on personal attacks, those qualms were brushed aside in the run-up to Tuesday's election.
In one recent fund-raising email, Kucinich claimed that an an aggressive, illegal [lawn] sign removal operation is being run by the other campaign.
Moreover, Kucinich has used his reputation as one of Congress's most outspoken anti-war advocates to attack Kaptur for supporting war funding legislation, referring to the Defense Appropriations Act of 2010. Kaptur's campaign claims the congresswoman voted for the bill's passage in order to obtain $42 million for new manufacturing jobs in Ohio, a fact the campaign has used against Kucinich, who opposed it. The legislation, which passed, contained a provision providing an additional $127.3 billion in defense spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In a radio ad running in the Cleveland area, his campaign alleges that Kaptur voted to waste half a trillion on Bush's wars while Kucinich voted to bring our troops and their money home to rebuild our economy.
Kaptur's campaign has responded in kind. The campaign attempted to link Kucinich with a former Cuyahoga County commissioner facing bribery and racketeering charges, in addition to releasing an ad claiming that Kucinich at one point opposed senior prescription drug coverage -- an accusation PolitiFact recently rated as false.
Still, the victor of the Democratic primary will have yet another foe to face before he or she can claim Ohio's 9th District. Either Kucinich or Kaptur will face off with the winner of the state's Republican primary in November. As of now, one of the two candidates running for the GOP nomination is none other than Samuel Wurzelbacher, better known as Joe the Plumber.
The Kucinich-Kaptur showdown will be the kickoff of 11 primary races that is expected to pit House incumbents against one another as a result of redistriciting. Of those races, including districts in Pennsylvania, California, New Jersey, Florida and Michigan, seven races involve Democrats, while four involved Republicans.