Posted by on June 29, 2012 in Blog

After making an important statement about the strength of organized and motivated Arab American communities in the New Jersey primary between Reps. Bill Pascrell and Steve Rothman, Arab Americans around the country are looking to replicate their success in a number of key congressional races. One such race is in Ohio’s 9th Congressional district, where Rep. Marcy Kaptur will face Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher.

Rep. Kaptur is a long time Congressional representative from northeast Ohio, first elected to Congress in 1982. She is the most senior member of Ohio’s Congressional delegation and is among the longest-serving women in Congress. Because Ohio lost population between the 2000 and 2010 censuses, the state lost two congressional districts, and the Republican-controlled state legislature drew a new map unfavorable to Democrats. Thus, Reps. Kaptur and Dennis Kucinich, a long-time Cleveland incumbent and ally of Kaptur’s in Washington, found themselves competing against one another for the same seat in the newly-drawn 9th district. Rep. Kaptur won the hard-fought primary, relying on strong support from labor unions and spending heavily in the Cleveland and Toledo media markets in order to defeat Kucinich for the Democratic nomination.

Her Republican opponent, Samuel Wurzelbacher, has taken a somewhat different path to the race for Ohio’s 9th district. He first rose to prominence during the 2008 campaign, when he engaged in a discussion about small-business policy with then candidate Barack Obama. Wurzelbacher earned the nickname “Joe the Plumber” despite not being a licensed plumber. He became a hero of the conservative blogosphere, and has since tried to capitalize on his fame in a number of ways; his congressional campaign is his latest venture. He narrowly won the Republican primary in March, defeating Steven Kraus, an auctioneer and realtor. Wurzelbacher has recently caused a controversy with a strange ad which argues that horrors like the Armenian genocide and the Holocaust were caused by gun-control laws. His campaign seems to have a fondness for simply-produced and controversial videos as a way to attract attention and money, so more incidents like this one should be expected during the campaign.

Wurzelbacher’s campaign has not provided much detail on his policy positions, beyond his belief that President Obama is dangerously weakening the country. It’s tough to tell what his attitude toward issues important to Arab Americans might be, though one hopes these issues could be clarified during the course of the campaign. Rep. Kaptur, on the other hand, has a long record in Congress to guide Arab American constituents. She has received consistently positive marks from AAI’s annual scorecard for years, and her outreach to the Arab American community in and around Toledo has won her many supporters. Regardless of which candidate receives more support, an active and engaged Arab American community will have an important impact on this race. And with Wurzelbacher involved, it will surely be an entertaining race.      

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