But Joel Lieske, a professor of political science at Cleveland State University, said Mr. Wurzelbacher, despite his significant funding and logistical disadvantages in the race, strikes a chord with many voters. “He’s a plain-talking guy — decent and sincere and very Ohioan,” Mr. Lieske said. “He’s not a career politician. … He goes back to the classic ideal of the ‘citizen-statesman’ who wants to serve the people and improve their situation.”
Because of congressional redistricting, Ms. Kaptur had to survive a bitter battle with fellow Rep. Dennis Kucinich in the Democratic primary earlier this year. Although Mr. Kucinich, a former mayor of Cleveland, was better known on the national stage, the race between two of the House’s most liberal members ended in victory for Ms. Kaptur, who received well over 50 percent of the vote.
Ms. Kaptur cites the district’s falling unemployment rate and mending economy as evidence of her effectiveness in serving the diverse region. “I always tell people, ‘If you want to visit the world, come to northern Ohio,’” she said. “We have every ethnic, racial and religious group, both urban and rural cultures, major ports, heavy rail, big steel, food processing — it’s very, very diverse.”
One in eight jobs in the district is tied to the automobile industry, she said, and President Obama and other Democrats have not been shy in pointing up the administration’s efforts to save the Detroit-based car companies.
Mr. Lieske said that Ohio is a “quintessential middle-class state” marked by “steady minds and habits.” One of those habits, he said, was voter loyalty, making Mr. Wurzelbacher’s challenge in unseating the longtime incumbent that much harder.
In addition to Mr. Wurzelbacher’s lack of family wealth and outside funding, Mr. Lieske said his election will be difficult in a district of where Democrats have a sizable edge in registration.
Joking that he might be a “closet idealist,” Mr. Wurzelbacher said that his goal, win or lose, is to represent the voices of regular people with integrity, with party labels a secondary concern.
“These days, the Republican and Democrat parties seem to own the candidates from day one. No one owns me. I want results. … I want to bring a little common sense back to D.C.”