Dennis Kucinich ponders hitting the road

May 16, 2011


Not long ago, Rep. Dennis Kucinich was championing the anti-war movement on the presidential stage with the likes of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

But now, the die-hard liberal who launched his 30-year career on a high note as the “boy mayor of Cleveland” has become something of a political outlaw on the hunt for a new House district reportedly as far west as Washington state and as far north as Maine.

It’s a moment brought on by a set of circumstances ranging from dreary to bizarre.

The anti-war movement has almost disappeared. He’s bracing to be redistricted out of his beloved Cleveland district. The biggest platform he’s had recently is Comedy Central, where he performed a semi-professional ventriloquist act on an episode of “The Daily Show.” To add insult to injury, he is still widely lampooned for suing the House cafeteria over an olive pit that cracked his tooth and cost him dearly in medical bills.

Former aides and foes alike say he’s a character whose lifelong eccentricities make his current predicament not so unlikely.

“Dennis is not a conventional politician in any way,” said 2004 deputy national campaign manager Tim Carpenter, who currently heads Progressive Democrats of America. “When you use a traditional measuring stick, yes, he’s been outside the norm.”

While Kucinich, 64, has remained mum about his exact plans, there’s speculation he may try to recoup a House seat by following a population shift out West. Based on the last census, Washington is adding a district while Ohio is losing two. In an email to supporters, Kucinich said he’s been approached by supporters from “Washington to Maine.”

While calling stories about his potential move to Washington mere “speculation,” Kucinich didn’t deny that invitations have picked up since news of the redistricting broke.

Less than two weeks ago, he spoke to a standing-room-only crowd of nearly 800 in Washington. He said he’s received a steady stream of invitations from labor, environmental, political and other groups.

“The thing I won’t do is wake up the day after the Ohio map is revealed and suddenly be in shock and say, ‘Oh what do I do now.’ I don’t live that way. I don’t see myself as a victim. I reject that,” he said. “This is nothing to cry about.”

And if he doesn’t move to a new state, the redistricted map could very well pit him against a fellow Ohio Democrat — a race his friends say he’d be too noble to jump into.

“As someone who spent a lifetime challenging corrupt utilities and insurance companies, I’m not exactly the Republicans’ favorite Democrat,” he said, ruefully. “I’m aware of that reality, but I’m not complaining. There’s a specific effort to eliminate my presence in the U.S. Congress.”

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