Post updated December 28, 3:42 p.m. ET
Dennis Kucinich, the left-wing Democratic Congressman from Ohio, and two-time candidate for president, has announced that he will run against fellow incumbent Democrat Marcy Kaptur after they were drawn into a new district — setting up the biggest challenge of Kucinich’s political career since his brief and tumultuous term as Mayor of Cleveland in the 1970’s.
The two were drawn into a gerrymandered district that stretches from east to west around Lake Erie, all the way from the Democratic stronghold of Cleveland (Kucinich’s base) to the Democratic stronghold of Toledo (Kaptur territory). And for what it is worth, the new district does in fact contain a bit more of Kaptur’s territory, than it does from Kucinich.
For a time, Kucinich even considered parachuting across the country, all the way into Washington state, which is gaining a seat — but polling of the state found that the state’s voters were not big on the idea (if they had even heard of him at all).
And just in case the race for this deep-blue district wasn’t wacky enough already, the winner of the Democratic primary could quite possibly face a general election against Republican nominee…Joe “The Plumber” Wurzelbacher!
Kaptur was first elected to the House in 1982, after having earlier served in county government and then in the administration of President Jimmy Carter, with a background in urban planning. She has consistently won large victories for her seat, as it previously existed. In her last race in 2010, she won a 59%-41% victory over Republican candidate Rich Iott, who became known nationally for his Nazi reenactments.
Kucinich’s political career is far more dramatic, going back to his career in Cleveland politics. Elected to the city council in 1969, at age 23, he would go on to become the “boy mayor” of Cleveland, elected to that office in 1977 at 31 years of age. From there on, it was a very rocky two-year term.
Difficulties with the city’s finances, and strained relations with the city council, resulted in, among other things, a recall campaign in 1978 that Kucinich survived by a razor-thin margin of 236 votes out of over 120,000, and even a mafia contract to assassinate him. When the city’s finances worsened, and creditors demanded that he sell off the municipal electric utility, Kucinich refused, resulting in the city’s financial default. He then lost re-election in 1979, to Republican George Voinovich, who later went on to become Ohio governor and a U.S. Senator.
(It should be noted that the electric utility continues to be publicly owned to this day. Kucinich has pointed to this episode as a major point of pride — that he stood up against the banks, who had refused a normal process of rolling over the city’s debts, and who had deep financial ties with the private electric company.)
But after many years, it turned out Kucinich’s political career was not over. He eventually made a comeback to the Ohio state Senate in 1994, and then was elected to the U.S. House in 1996, where he has gone on to become a left-wing voice on foreign policy and other issues, and has continued to serve while also running his two presidential campaigns in 2004 and 2008. But while the presidential campaigns gave him a national platform for his issues, he never succeeded in making a headway in the polls, or in racking up delegates.
(Via The Hill.)