Dennis, Departing

Yesterday’s primary election in Ohio not only resulted in a win for Mitt Romney, it also ended (for now, at least) the congressional career of Dennis Kucinich.  Fellow Representative Marcy Kaptur trounced Kucinich in the Democratic primary in a redrawn district.

Kucinich blamed his defeat on a negative campaign by Kaptur.  Perhaps — but it seems equally plausible that those who voted overwhelmingly for Kaptur saw Kucinich as a publicity hound who wasn’t a very effective Congressman.  He grabbed headlines with his quixotic runs for President and strident anti-war views, to say nothjng of his silly dental injury lawsuit, but did he really have a positive impact for his district?

The national press has expressed wistful regret at Kucinich’s defeat; they depict it as part of a process by which Congress has shed its colorful characters and become increasingly homogenized.  The media loved Kucinich because he was good copy.  Voters, however, aren’t so much interested in representatives who are great at getting publicity as they are in finding someone who will produce for them back home.  The voters in Ohio’s new 9th District obviously concluded that Kaptur was better suited to that task than Kucinich.  Who can blame them?


Redistricted Rivals

The 2010 Census cost Ohio two seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.  That loss of seats made drawing the new congressional map a challenge — and also produced one of the more intriguing primary elections that Ohio will see this year.

The primary pits two long-time Democratic Representatives, Dennis Kucinich and Marcy Kaptur, against each other in a new district that runs from Cleveland west along Lake Erie to Toledo.  Kucinich and Kaptur have been friends and colleagues with very similar voting records — but with their continued presence in Congress at stake, the gloves have come off.  Kucinich has criticized Kaptur for voting to fund the war in Iraq when he says that money should have been spent in Cleveland.  Kaptur, whose longevity has produced a senior position on the House Appropriations Committee, argues that she is better able to attract federal money to help the redrawn district.

The two long-time politicians, as well as a newcomer who argues that both Kucinich and Kaptur should be thrown out, are on the ballot on March 6.  The question is:  how will voters choose between two experienced, big government Democrats whose voting records are virtually indistinguishable?  And, given Kucinich’s well-publicized dental problems, has he locked up the important Democratic dentist vote?

Have Tooth, Will Travel

Dennis Kucinich, currently a Democratic Representative from Ohio, is getting ready for his next congressional race — which may be in Washington state.  In Ohio, as in other states, redistricting is occurring on the basis of the 2010 Census population figures.  Ohio is going to lose two seats, and apparently one of the seats on the chopping blocks is Kucinich’s district.  As a result, he’s looking for a new place to get elected, and liberal Washington, which is adding a seat, caught his eye.

Kucinich has always been unconventional, from his disastrous days as Cleveland’s “Boy Mayor” in the 1970s to his recent, ill-advised decision to sue the House cafeteria when he purportedly suffered dental damage biting into a veggie wrap at a House cafeteria and then to reach a hasty settlement when he was inundated by bad publicity.  I suppose looking to run in another state is unusual, but in my view if Kucinich runs in Washington it actually exposes him as just another politician.  He’s not really looking to fight for the people of Cleveland, which has been his pitch to date; instead, he just desperately wants to get elected again, even if it is in some faraway state to which he has no meaningful connection.  Like many politicians, he’s convinced that it is crucial that his views are heard on the big stage in Washington, D.C.

It’s pathetic to see former crusaders like Kucinich exposed as office-hungry political hacks, but it is a familiar story.  If Kucinich does seek election in Washington, it will be interesting to see how his tired act is received by voters in the Pacific Northwest.

Veggie Wraps, Olive Pits, and Dumb Decisions

Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich has settled his dental injuries lawsuit.  Kucinich became the butt of jokes here and elsewhere for his decision to file a lawsuit seeking $150,000 for injuries allegedly caused by biting into a veggie wrap that included an olive pit.  He apparently concluded, wisely, that pursuing the lawsuit would only expose him to still more derision — and if there is one thing a politician just can’t stand, it is being the subject of ridicule.

Dennis Kucinich and his upper bridgework

Before Representative Kucinich could go quietly into the night, however, he had to explain why he decided to file his ill-advised lawsuit in the first place.  This was not a good decision.  Kucinich’s explanation, available on his campaign website, reminds me of the lengthy, overly detailed description you might get if you ask an elderly relative how they are feeling.  And you can imagine your side of the conversation, too.  “So your tooth actually split and you didn’t know it?”  “Yes, I can imagine that would hurt like crazy — it certainly was brave for you to go on working despite the excruciating pain.”  “I’m sure you were concerned that the anchor of your upper bridgework was affected.”  By the time you heard the part about the antibiotics causing an intestinal obstruction you would be surreptitiously checking your watch and looking for a way to hit the road.  Kucinich gives more detailed information about the health consequences of his chance encounter with the olive pit than President Reagan provided about surviving an assassination attempt.

Kucinich’s experience should teach every politician a lesson.  If you are smart, you won’t sue under any circumstances — and if you find yourself talking about your intestinal obstructions, you probably should shut up, already.

Veggie Wraps, Olive Pits, And Congressional Lawsuits

Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich is suing a House of Representatives cafeteria for $150,000 because it allegedly sold him a vegetarian wrap sandwich that contained an olive pit.  Kucinich asserts that biting into the sandwich caused him “permanent dental and oral injuries requiring multiple surgical and dental procedures.”  The $150,000 figure includes sums for Kucinich’s pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment.

The news about this lawsuit gives the reader a lot to chew on.  First, Kucinich must have a pretty expensive dentist and pretty extensive dental issues if the teeth-olive pit encounter could cause $150,000 worth of damage.  The hungry Congressman must have really been looking forward to that hearty veggie wrap and chomped down into the sandwich with reckless abandon!  Of course, for Members of Congress a fully functioning mouth is a crucial part of the job, so it’s not surprising they would use only the most expensive mouth technicians.  Second, it says something about Rep. Kucinich’s power — or lack of same — that he couldn’t even get the House of Representatives own cafeteria to pay off his dental bills short of litigation.  You would think that the cafeteria would want to keep famished Members of Congress and their staffs coming in for those grim vegetarian meals and would be willing to toss a few thousand bucks Kucinich’s way in order to avoid any problems.

And third, isn’t there something apt about a Member of Congress filing a $150,000 lawsuit for a food-related incident?  We can only assume that the standard, scrupulously accurate congressional accounting and budgeting techniques were used to develop that damages figure.

Dennis In The House

ABC has called the race in Ohio District 10 for the U.S House of Representatives for Dennis Kucinich, the long-time Cleveland political figure and general political gadfly.

It is hard to believe that Kucinich is still in politics — he was the “Boy Mayor” of Cleveland when I worked for the Wall Street Journal Cleveland bureau in 1979.  Kucinich will no doubt make Congress a more interesting place, but he is more of a bomb-thrower than an effective legislator.

Speaking of gadflies, ABC News also has declared that James Traficant has failed in his attempt to return to his congressional seat.  With that loss, we’ll have to figure out now which Representative will win the coveted title of weirdest hairdo.