CLEVELAND — Rep. Marcy Kaptur has represented the Toledo area in Congress since she rode a Democratic wave into office in Ronald Reagan's first mid-term election in 1982. The closest a competitor ever got to her was when she won re-election two years later by a 12-point margin.
In 2018, she became the longest-serving woman in the history of the U.S. House of Representatives, drawing praise from Democrats and Republicans alike, including then-Speaker of the House, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).
"I rise to wholeheartedly agree with the Democratic leader," Ryan said at the time, echoing the praise of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). "I'm not sure I've ever said that before," he said laughing. "No matter which side of the aisle we're on we can all take something from your example.
"You have been a tireless advocate for your principles, your point of view and you have done it with honor and distinction and with that, that is a phenomenal example for all of us."
But Kaptur's biggest obstacle these days in any effort to continue that streak will not come in the form of an opponent, but rather the state legislature, as they take on the task of drawing new congressional districts. Both the Republican-drawn maps in the state House and Senate put Kaptur into Republican districts that would be very difficult for a Democrat to win, with the House version splitting up Toledo.
"Well I wasn't expecting anything better," Kaptur told News 5 in between votes on Capitol Hill. "What they've done throughout the state is they have basically cracked metropolitan communities and have moved districts to very awkward configurations in order to meet the numbers that they wanted."
"As so often happens in Ohio, sadly, our metropolitan areas are hacked apart," she said.
As maligned as her current "snake on the lake" district has been, she said it served a purpose: having a congressperson to speak to the environmental needs of Lake Erie.
"There's a coherence to it," she said. "The lake and the turnpike were basically what we shared in common as well an industrial and agricultural heritage up there related to the lake and the rivers."
"Then in terms of the economy, you take a company like Cleveland Cliffs in Cleveland, well they have a facility in Toledo so the parts supply, the rail lines, this particular redraw shatters all of that," Kaptur said.
At a hearing in Columbus Thursday, advocates made their case to keep places like Toledo whole.
"Toledo should be anchoring its own district; it should be in like communities," said Carrie Coisman from the group "All on the Line." "What you're doing is taking Toledo, cracking it apart to dilute the political power of those folks that live in Toledo by pulling them into two districts."
If the lines were to stay close to what they are in the GOP proposals when this process concludes at the end of November, Kaptur said the legislature's word would likely not be the last.
"I would think that the courts would be engaged yes," she said.