All eyes are on Ohio as the election season races toward its final week, but few are focused on one of the unlikeliest of contests: 16-term Democratic Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur vs. Republican Samuel Wurzelbacher – better known as Joe the Plumber – who are competing in the newly drawn 9th district that snakes along the Lake Erie shoreline from Cleveland to Toledo. Wurzelbacher, who entered the race with a strong endorsement from the Tea Party, has done little in the way of fundraising or campaigning, but he HAS emerged on a few occasions to debate the Democrat.
In their final match-up last night -- carried live on WTVG -- Kaptur made her support of the bailouts of GM and Chrysler a centerpiece of her case for re-election.
“All you have to do is drive over to General Motors’ transmission plant. If you go to the Chrysler Jeep plant, you’ll see that all former hires have been brought back on. And in fact, they’re hiring off the street. I think they’ve selected 1,100 additional individuals.”
Wurzelbacher countered that taxes and regulation drove the auto industry to the brink of disaster in the first place. Like the mainstream GOP, he argued free enterprise and less government intervention was what helped create jobs…which is why he said his first act as Congressman would be to repeal the health care reform law, Obamacare.
“You’re talking about 4,000 new regulations coming in over the next 8-12 years. That’s a lot of regulations, and the middle class are going to foot that bill. It is one of the highest tax rate in middle class in the history of America. And that’s something that is just ah, disgustingly irresponsible.”
But less government intervention became Kaptur’s mantra on the issue of abortion.
“The decisions of conscience regarding life belong to each family, they belong to each woman, they don’t belong in the hands of the government.”
In affirming his pro-life stance, Wurzelbacher touched on Indiana Republican Senatorial candidate Richard Mourducks’ comment that pregnancy – even in cases of rape, is quote – “Something that God intended to happen.”
“Rape is a terrible crime. And quite frankly, I think of Charlie Daniels… those are the guys I’d like to take out to a swamp and tie to a stump, and leave them there. That being said now, does that child deserve to die for the father’s sin?”
One issue that was more localized was drilling for oil and natural gas in Lake Erie. Kaptur said she opposed it because of the potential hazards to a major source of drinking water.
"I don’t believe in plundering precious resources because there are generations who will follow us. Lake Erie is very fragile.”
On that issue, Wurzelbacher broke from Kaptur, AND Ohio’s Republican governor John Kasich, who signed an executive order this summer prohibiting drilling in Lake Erie.
“Y’know, we need to drill here in Ohio. My opponent, Miss Kaptur, has no fracking idea on really what we need to do to get energy independence.”
The two also differed on illegal immigration, with Kaptur supporting a path to citizenship, and Wurzelbacher preferring a military patrolled-fence approach, saying it works for Korea.
Reporter's note: Due to time constraints, the broadcast version of this story did not include two areas where Kaptur and Wurzelbacher agree: both say there's too much gridlock in Congress; and both say they're opposed to privatization of the Ohio turnpike. - BB