March 7th, 2012
06:33 PM ET
3 years ago

Kucinich first casualty in incumbent vs. incumbent races

Washington (CNN) – While most of the nation's eyes were focused on the Republican presidential race in Ohio Tuesday night, a Democratic drama was playing out in the north of the state.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, one of Congress' leading liberal voices, was defeated by a fellow Democrat.

"Many of you in this room have known me for years and you know that I've lost campaigns before and there's always a tomorrow. Don't cry any tears for me," Kucinich told supporters after learning of his loss.

Thanks to redistricting lines drawn by Ohio Republicans, Democrat Kucinich was pitted against veteran Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur, the dean of the Ohio delegation.

In an interview back in the Capitol Wednesday, Kaptur told CNN the two once had a good friendship.

"I was the individual in the delegation that had the portrait painted of he and his wife that hangs in his office [from] when they were married," said Kaptur.

But the friendship devolved into a nasty campaign fight fast – an eight week slug fest that left Kucinich still openly bitter on election night.

"Now I would like to be able to congratulate Congressman Kaptur, but I do have to say that she ran a campaign in the Cleveland media market that was utterly lacking in integrity with false statements, half truths, misrepresentations – I hope that is not the kind of representation she would provide to this community," said Kucinich.

Kaptur told CNN she thinks they can repair their friendship, but "it will take a little time for healing."

When it became clear Kucinich could lose his seat, he went to Washington State to explore running there.

For that, Kaptur attacked Kucinich, the former mayor of Cleveland, in the harshest terms for Cleveland voters. She compared him in a radio ad to once favorite son basketball player Lebron James - who bolted last year for Miami.

Kucinich played on what he is known for nationally: staunch opposition to war and accused Kaptur of wasting taxpayer dollars on military action overseas.

But Kaptur, who is a top Democrat on the powerful House appropriations committee, and potentially in line to chair the panel if Democrats retake the House, ran a campaign you don't see much in a tea party world. She ran as an old fashioned politician who brings home the bacon.

"We got rid of a lift bridge on an interstate and it became a bridge to everywhere," said Kaptur.

In a time when working in Washington and serving on key committees is often perceived as a negative, we asked how she was able to turn it into a positive.

"Because we can show something for it," she said.

Kaptur used the issue to set up a contrast with Kucinich and paint him as someone too focused on his national profile and hanging out with Hollywood celebrities to worry about decaying infrastructure in and around Cleveland.

"If I go into the other parts of the district we hadn't represented they [highways and bridges] needed a lot of work so people vote for their own interests, and if we can help them make life better I think that they see that and they register that in the way that they vote," said Kaptur.

Kaptur is the longest serving female member of the House of Representatives, which she also highlighted.

"As a woman I have to say, I know my position here in the House and on the committees I serve is very rare for Ohio. Never has a woman done this. Never in 127 years has there been anyone from Ohio seated at the top of the Appropriations Committee."

Now Kaptur faces another national figure of sorts - "Joe the Plumber."

"He's not a plumber and his name isn't Joe," she quipped.

His name is Sam Wurzelbacher. He became famous as "Joe the Plumber" during the 2008 presidential campaign when he challenged then-Sen. Obama's tax plan, and Sen. John McCain's campaign seized on it. Wurzelbacher won his Republican primary against Steve Kraus, an auctioneer.

Kucinich is the first casualty of congressional redistricting, but that list of House incumbents could grow to more than ten members not returning in 2012, as other states' primaries pit incumbent lawmakers of the same political party against each other.

Most of the incumbent-versus-incumbent races are born out of brass knuckle partisan politics – the party in charge of the state legislature working the congressional lines to try to force the other party out of a congressional seat.

Later this month in Illinois, freshman House Republican Adam Kinzinger will face off with veteran GOP Rep. Donald Manzullo. They'll be fighting to represent a newly-redrawn district that Democrats in the state created in order to oust a GOP member from the state's delegation.

Another Illinois freshman Republican, Joe Walsh, originally planned to run against fellow first termer GOP Rep. Randy Hultgren because the state's new map added more Democrats to his suburban Chicago district. But Walsh announced that he will remain in his own district, making his race more competitive and potential opportunity for Democrats to retake the seat.

Another high profile Democratic primary is shaping up in June in Southern California where liberal Rep. Brad Sherman is running against the more senior Rep. Howard Berman, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Relations Committee. The race, like others around the country, makes an awkward situation for their Democratic colleagues in the state's congressional delegation - as members quietly line up behind their personal pick, while attempting to avoid openly criticizing the colleague they are not supporting.

Also see:

Palin votes for Gingrich

'Joe the Plumber' wins GOP primary in Ohio

In battle of incumbents, Kucinich loses House seat in Ohio

Palin on open convention: Anything is possible


Filed under: 2012 • Democrats • Dennis Kucinich • House • Ohio
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Leon

    Good by Dennis please fade away quietly.

    March 7, 2012 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  2. macrasta

    no problem here.. I think that man was litte "touched"

    March 7, 2012 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  3. Riley

    That seat will goto a republian very soon, anyway.

    March 7, 2012 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    "Most of the incumbent-versus-incumbent races are born out of brass knuckle partisan politics – the party in charge of the state legislature working the congressional lines to try to force the other party out of a congressional seat." What kind of country do we live in? The United States is not that country. Both of these politicians should have had the opportunity to continue representing their communities.

    March 7, 2012 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  5. Larry L

    It's time for him to go but it would have nice if the lady who won could have run a more honorable campaign.

    March 7, 2012 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |