Kucinich vs. Kaptur: GOP Redistricting Turns Colleagues into Rivals

Kucinich is facing a vigorous, last-ditch bid to salvage his House career. (Niko Duffy/POLITICO)

Kucinich vs. Kaptur: GOP Redistricting Turns Colleagues into Rivals

GOP control of the state legislature in Ohio allowed for a redistricting plan that has turned two Democratic colleagues into rivals and could possibly spell the end of progressive champion and former presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich's time in Congress.

As Politicoreports this morning:

Dennis Kucinich, the longtime liberal icon who waged two unsuccessful presidential bids, is facing the very real prospect of seeing his Capitol Hill career hurtle to an end.

The Ohio Democrat faces an uphill path to victory in his March 6 primary against 15-term Rep. Marcy Kaptur, who has served alongside Kucinich since he was elected to the House in 1996.

The congressman's problem is redistricting. Last year, Republicans who control line-drawing in the state threw him into the same northeast Ohio-area district as Kaptur, crafting the new 6th District seat in such a way that it would have more territory that she previously represented than he did.

Kucinich, a former Cleveland mayor who was first elected to the Cleveland City Council in 1969, now finds himself racing across the district in a vigorous, last-ditch bid to salvage his House career. With many of his constituents spread out in neighboring districts, he's now being forced to introduce himself to voters outside Cleveland, in the industrial areas of Lorain and Toledo, whose support he will need to win.

It's an unfortunate political reality. As Sarah Jaffe remarked at Alternet last month:

It's a Republican dream, forcing two progressive candidates to fight each other to stay in Congress. That's exactly what's happening as redistricting has thrown Dennis Kucinich, two-time presidential candidate and hero to the anti-war movement, into competition with Marcy Kaptur, who's made news both for a fiery floor speech calling for people under threat of foreclosure to be squatters in their own homes--and for her vocal opposition to abortion, going so far as to sign on with Bart Stupak in vowing to take down health care reform if insurance companies that got federal dollars covered the procedure.

Here's Kaptur's floor speech about foreclosure:

According to Jaffe, though both candidates are members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and vote the same nearly 90% of the time, the issue that most distinguishes their respective policies, is war. According to Jaffe's report:

"When it comes to the idea of war and the actual wars that are in progress, that's where they do differ and that's where a lot of Kucinich's [prominent] statements have come from. That's one of the points where voters are going to see the other candidate as presenting some different points on Iraq or Afghanistan, that might be a swaying point," Eric Sandy, a reporter for Sun Newspapers in the Cleveland area, told AlterNet.

Kucinich is an anti-war stalwart, calling for a cabinet-level Department of Peace and basing his presidential campaigns on his opposition to intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan. Kaptur, meanwhile, voted to keep funding the wars without a withdrawal timeline. While she's by no means a hawk and has vocally opposed the Iraq war, she also voted against a speedier withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Recent polls seem to give Kaptur the edge, but few think Kucinich should be counted out. As Politico reports:

"I would never, ever underestimate Dennis Kucinich. Dennis is a tenacious candidate," said Stuart Garson, the chairman of the Cuyahoga Democratic Party. "Listen, he's the favorite son and his constituents love him."

"People who write his obituary -- you could write a graveyard with them," said Cimperman, who witnessed Kucinich's survival skills firsthand. "People underestimate him at their own peril."


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