Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, speaks at Western State Hospital in Lakewood, Washington. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, a two-time presidential candidate who for the past decade has been the most consistent critic of war and militarism in the US House of Representatives, was defeated Tuesday in a Democratic primary that pitted him against fellow progressive Marcy Kaptur.
Kucinich was the first electoral victim of the current round of redistricting, which saw congressional districts redrawn in states across the country after the 2010 Census. A Republican governor and legislature carved up northern Ohio districts with an eye toward eliminating at least one Democratic seat, and they achieved their goal by forcing Kucinich and Kaptur into the same district.
That district favored Kaptur and, after a hard-fought race she prevailed by a fifty-six to thirty-nine margin, with the remainder going to a third candidate.
Though the race in Ohio’s 9th District received scant attention compared with the Republican presidential contest in the state, the result will have national consequences.
A Congress without Dennis Kucinich will be a lesser branch. It’s not just that the loss of the former leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus will rob the House of its most consistent critic of wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, and one its steadiest critics of corporate power.
Since he arrived on the Hill in 1997, Kucinich has been one of a handful of absolutely engaged members. When issues have arisen, be it domestic or international, low profile or high, Kucinich has been at the ready—often with the first statement, the strongest demand and the boldest plan.
A master of parliamentary procedure, and a Constitutional purist, Kucinich has given Democratic and Republican congressional leaders their share of headaches. And he has been more than willing to break with Democratic and Republican presidents on matters of principle. But even as he frustrated the most powerful players in Washington, Kucinich won an enthusiastic base of supporters who backed him for the Democratic presidential nominations in 2004 and 2008.
Though he never got near the nomination in either year, Kucinich earned high marks for forcing the other contenders to address fundamental issues of war and peace, civil liberties and trade policy. At the same time, he remained sufficiently in touch with his blue-collar Cleveland-area district—turf that had previously elected a Republican—to keep his seat in the face of primary and general election challenges from candidate backed by the political and media elites that had been after Kucinich since his days as the uncompromising “boy mayor” of Cleveland.