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?