Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Kucinich to Seattle? Not so fast

It started Monday with a blog post from Seattle's alt-weekly, The Stranger. "Weird Rumor of the Day," read the headline. Now it's on the Plain Dealer's front page. Could Dennis Kucinich really move to Washington State to run for Congress?

Here's Eli Sanders' post on Slog,'s blog:
I'm posting this rumor mainly because it comes from someone with a long track-record in, and deep knowledge of, Washington State politics.

This person notes the recent time Dennis Kucinich has been spending in Washington State, notes that Kucinich has likely been redistricted out of a job in Ohio, and reminds that this state has a brand new district opening up in 2012.

The rumor is that Kucinich may be lining up a run for WA-10. It's a crazy rumor. But, my source adds: "He's just crazy enough to do it."
D.C. bloggers jumped on the rumor. Kucinich's spokesman, Nathan White, fanned the flames. Here's the answer White e-mailed to the Plain Dealer, Talking Points Memo, The Stranger, and anyone else who asked:

After people found out that Congressman Kucinich's district could be eliminated ... [he] received requests from people in twenty states, including Washington State, encouraging him to move and run in their area.

Congressman Kucinich appreciates the interest expressed in his public service. As he has repeatedly said, he fully intends to remain in Congress; he just doesn't know in what district he will run. In the meantime, he is devoted to serving Ohio's 10th district as it currently stands.

Sanders even catches White possibly dropping a hint by hyperlinking the words "in what district he will run" to this article about Dennis' recent appearance on Bainbridge Island, Wash.

Sounds like he's interested, huh? And at first glance it seems plausible.

Sure, district-shopping three time zones away would be a kooky, ballsy move, even more carpetbagger-y than Hillary Clinton or Robert F. Kennedy moving to New York to get into the Senate. But Dennis has had one foot in Washington State and California for nine years now, heading west to raise money from left-coast lefties so he can "run for president" and win re-election with ever-thinning margins at home.

And because Washington state's deadlines fall much later than Ohio's, the PD calculates, he could even take two shots at Congress next year: Ohio's Democratic primary in March, then, if he lost, Washington's in August.

But let's take a closer look at one more thing White told Talking Points Memo.

White pointed to Kucinich's quotes in a recent Daily Show interview in which he and comedian John Oliver discussed the possibility of him leaving the state to run elsewhere in a parody of LeBron James' "Decision" special.
Um, yeah. So is this a joke?

It's not like Seattle, Olympia, and Co. have a shortage of ambitious homegrown liberals. They don't need to import a Clevelander whose anti-free-trade voting record plays way better in the Rust Belt than the tech-savvy home of Microsoft (as this blogger points out).

Maybe Kucinich and his spokesman see the value of flirting with the rumor. It helps Kucinich look like a national figure and could stoke excitement and donations in Puget Sound zip codes.

So, at the risk of biasing Cleveland Magazine's weekly poll, I'm voting no. I say he's not going to run in Washington. Once the Republicans eliminate his district, I think he'll run in the Democratic primary against either Betty Sutton or maybe Marcia Fudge.

The really interesting question is, what does Dennis do if he loses?

The usual ex-congressman move, becoming a K Street lobbyist, is so not him. Neither is following his brother Gary's journey from politician to car salesman. Lots of Cleveland liberals want to buy a reliable compact car from someone they trust, but it's safe to say that's not the life Elizabeth imagines for herself and Dennis.

I've been wondering about Kucinich's backup plan ever since he fixed up and moved into a house he bought a couple of years ago -- not in Washington State, but in Washington, D.C. It's not the typical move of a congressman threatened by redistricting. It's the move of a guy who thinks he's got a permanent place in American politics, whether he holds onto a seat in Congress or not.

What will Dennis do if he's an ex-congressman in 2013? I say part-time traveling activist, part-time chairman of a peacenik nonprofit, part-time MSNBC commentator. You heard it here first.

To read "The Missionary," my profile of Kucinich, click here.

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