Tag Archives: Dennis Kucinich

Key Announcements

By Jim Ellis

May 12, 2017 — It’s been a busy political week even beyond the happenings at the presidential level, and the recent political news will affect the federal political apparatus long after the 2018 election cycle concludes.

Several current campaign announcements in governors races are setting the stage for critical 2021 redistricting battles. These races could well decide which political party will have the easier path toward controlling the US House for what could be the entire decade of the 2020s. The governors elected in the present election cycle will carry redistricting veto power; hence, the 2021 re-draw process is actually beginning right now.

In key states that are projected to gain and lose congressional districts, major gubernatorial campaign announcements were just made that will soon become focal points of the next redistricting process.

In Michigan, a state expected to again lose a congressional district and where Republicans own a 9-5 federal delegation margin within, Rep. Dan Kildee’s (D-Flushing/Flint) has rather surprisingly decided not to run for governor even when he appeared to be his party’s top statewide candidate. His remaining in the House will likely ignite a wide-open 2018 Democratic primary.

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Examining How Kaptur Crushed Kucinich in Ohio

Those who spent any time with Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH-9) this winter knew that she was not looking forward to the month of March. The Toledo area congresswoman had been paired in the same district with Ohio Democratic colleague Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH-10) by the newly minted GOP majority in the Buckeye State legislature as part of this year’s redistricting, and she was not looking forward to having to battle the combative Cleveland Democrat as prelude to defending her seat in November.

Dennis Kucinich has been a fixture and a colorful figure on the Cleveland political scene since the late 1960s. Some Clevelanders have had the chance to support Kucinich in campaigns for city council, mayor, Ohio secretary of state, governor, state senator, the U.S. Congress and the presidency in 2004 and 2008 during the course of a roller-coaster political career that has spanned 45 years.

For her part, Miss Kaptur’s political career, spent in the Toledo area, has been less colorful, but more careful than that of her Cleveland rival. First elected to Congress in 1982, Kaptur has steadily built support and seniority to become the longest-serving woman in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The 2010 Census made it clear that Ohio would lose two House seats to reapportionment. With Republicans gaining control of both Houses of the state legislature and the governor’s office that year, it was no surprise that Democrats in the Congressional delegation would be uneasy. The final redistricting plan to emerge from Columbus raised eyebrows this winter when two of the state’s most senior Democrats were both thrown into a battle for their political lives in the new Ninth CD.

Stretching all the way from Kaptur’s Toledo base in the west and hugging the Lake Erie shore all the way to Lorain and Kucinich’s Cleveland/Cuyahoga County political launching pad in the east, the district is the longest from end-to-end in Ohio. With more of Kaptur’s old district than Kucinich’s in the new CD, the voter history edge went to Kaptur in the early handicapping, but Kucinich supporters felt that as the more liberal of the two, he might have the edge with party activists and primary voters.

Kaptur, who hasn’t been seriously tested in some years in her heavily Democratic base, dusted off her campaign skills, showing remarkable energy in tirelessly reaching out to voters in the eastern reaches of the district where she was less well known. The final weeks the campaign took on a surreal atmosphere as Kucinich touted endorsements from country music icon Willie Nelson, Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt and Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, none of whom live in Ohio.

By contrast, Kaptur captured the endorsements of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and former GOP Cleveland mayor, Ohio governor and U.S. Sen. George Voinovich (R).

Adding to the campaign mayhem, Kaptur ran an ad in the Cleveland media market highlighting Kucinich’s musings about possibly moving to Washington state to run for Congress instead of Cleveland. Kaptur’s ad linked Kucinich to Cleveland Browns/Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell and Cleveland Cavaliers/Miami Heat basketball superstar LeBron James as figures willing to turn their backs on Cleveland and Ohio by packing up and moving away.

While Tuesday night’s Romney-Santorum cliffhanger captured almost all the national media attention, Kaptur’s 56-40% drubbing of Kucinich may have the greater long-term consequences in Washington DC, if not Washington state. Late last week, the announcement that Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA-6) would not seek re-election created a third Democratic-leaning open House seat in the Evergreen State. Dicks’ retirement also will make Kaptur the most senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee come January if she wins re-election in the new, heavily Democratic Ninth CD.

It would be highly unusual for any Democrat to mount a challenge to Kaptur for the top spot, but it is not unprecedented for members to challenge each other for choice slots on major committees. Kaptur, after all, is no favorite of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Pelosi lieutenant Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY-18), for one, might be put up to such a run. A long-shot dream scenario for Pelosi might be for Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD-5) to give up his leadership post and reclaim his seniority on the Appropriations Committee, where he served before moving into the Capitol Building. Hoyer would then become chairman of the committee in the unlikely event the Democrats regained the House majority. That move would allow her to dispatch two rivals in one move, but such things are too much for even former Speakers to hope.

A more realistic view is that Kaptur will be the odds-on favorite to win the top Democratic spot on the Appropriations Committee when the next Congress convenes. She can look back and think that this whole chain of events all started with a momentous month of March.

Upset City: Schmidt, Kilroy Lose Ohio Primaries

The presidential contest attracted all of the media attention last night, but the Ohio congressional nominating elections proved exciting in their own right. Two upsets in the three most seriously contested Buckeye State battlegrounds were recorded.

First, in the Cincinnati-anchored OH-2, four-term incumbent Rep. Jean Schmidt fell to surgeon Brad Wenstrup 49-43 percent in the GOP primary. Two other candidates accumulated a combined total of 10 percent. In a high turnout that will exceed 85,000 votes, Mr. Wenstrup became the first candidate to score a challenger victory, and that coming in the initial congressional primary contest of the year.

An outside organization, the Campaign for Primary Accountability, which has the goal of defeating long-term incumbents in both parties in order to bring new blood to Congress, was heavily active here. In fact, some predict that the CPA efforts may be equivalent in spending to that of Wenstrup, himself. Through the Feb. 15 pre-primary FEC report, Wenstrup reported raising just under $245,000.

For her part, Ms. Schmidt, who seemed to run a non-existent campaign, may have taken renomination for granted. She was tagged with debt ceiling and certain tax votes, while supporting bank bail-out legislation that led to her husband’s business receiving such funding. She will continue to serve the balance of the remaining term.

We have to remember, though, that Mr. Wenstrup also ran a credible campaign for mayor of Cincinnati in 2009, scoring 46 percent against incumbent Mark Mallory (D). He carried seven of the city’s 26 wards against the mayor in that election, including three that comprise the heart of the 2nd District’s Cincinnati portion. Therefore, Wenstrup had a base in the city and also did well in Schmidt’s rural home turf, thus leading to his rather convincing victory. Mr. Wenstrup is the prohibitive favorite to win the seat in November.

In Columbus, the new 3rd District was drawn to elect a Democratic member in order to relieve electoral pressure from two area Republican lawmakers, and it has already hosted an upset victory. Former Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D), who lost her seat to Rep. Steve Stivers (R) in 2010, failed to win the OH-3 Democratic nomination battle in which she appeared to be favored. Former state House Minority Leader Joyce Beatty, with strong support from the African-American community and Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, knocked out Kilroy, and also defeated Columbus City Councilwoman Priscilla Tyson and state Rep. Ted Celeste. The final percentages were 38-35-15-12 percent, respectively.

Kilroy was never a particularly strong member or candidate. She has now won one close congressional election and lost three, all since 2006. She had a high disapproval rating, which carried over even among her fellow Democrats as more than 60 percent of the low turnout chose someone other than the former incumbent. The heavily Democratic nature of the district will assure that Ms. Beatty will be elected to the House this fall.

In an election whose result wasn’t a particular surprise, though the early returns were surprisingly close, 15-term Rep. Marcy Kaptur crushed fellow Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich in the new 9th District that stretches from Cleveland to Toledo along the Lake Erie shoreline. Kaptur beat Kucinich 56-40 percent, with 4 percent going to businessman Graham Veysey. Kaptur is the prohibitive favorite in November. She will face Samuel Wurzelbacher (R), better known as “Joe the Plumber”, who won an uninspiring GOP 51-49 percent primary victory over auctioneer Steve Kraus last night.

With two upsets already recorded on the first night of the congressional primary season, it is likely that all House incumbents are taking serious note of these results. Once again, 2012 is proving to be a most interesting election year.

Congressional Primaries Begin Today

Super Tuesday has traditionally been the focal point of the presidential nomination process. Today, however, one state, Ohio, kicks off the national congressional primary season, as well. All 16 newly drawn congressional districts must nominate candidates this evening, and three are being actively contested.

In the Cincinnati/Southwest Ohio 2nd District, four-term Rep. Jean Schmidt (R) faces three Republican opponents, the most notable of whom is surgeon Brad Wenstrup who garnered 46 percent against Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory in 2009. Wenstrup’s effort hasn’t been particularly robust, especially in the district’s rural counties, but he should score relatively well against Ms. Schmidt. Upsetting her, however, is probably out of his reach.

In the new 3rd District, a Columbus Democratic seat that encompasses most of the city, defeated Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D) is attempting a comeback bid. She may be successful, though former state House Minority Leader Joyce Beatty armed with support from Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, says her internal polls show the race to be a virtual tie. State Rep. Ted Celeste, brother of former Gov. Richard Celeste (D), is also a candidate but the race appears to be between Kilroy and Beatty.

In the Cleveland-Toledo 9th District, Rep. Marcy Kaptur is expected to win the Democratic nomination against gadfly Rep. Dennis Kucinich. The loss of two seats in reapportionment caused these two incumbents to be paired. Don’t be surprised to see Kucinich pop up in another state this year if he loses tonight. Because of his presidential bids in both 2004 and 2008, the controversial Cleveland congressman says he has a base of support in both Washington and Hawaii. With Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA-6) just announcing his retirement last week, a new opening exists in the Evergreen State. Could another bizarre Kucinich move be already formulating?

Super Tuesday: Ohio Races

Super Tuesday marks not only an important day for the Republican presidential campaign, but also kicks off the 2012 congressional elections. Ohio holds its statewide vote on that date, making it the earliest congressional vote in the nation. Originally Texas also was scheduled for March 6, but legal wrangling over redistricting has postponed that primary to much later in the year.

Of Ohio’s 16 congressional districts, a trio of Ohio US House primary contests will, for all intents and purposes, elect new members for the 113th Congress next week:

OH-2: The Schmidt Challenge

In the Cincinnati-anchored 2nd District, four-term Rep. Jean Schmidt (R) faces surgeon Brad Wenstrup and two other minor Republican candidates. Wenstrup challenged Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory in 2009 and managed to score 46 percent of the citywide vote. He has not been particularly aggressive in this race against Rep. Schmidt, however, raising slightly under $245,000 for his primary challenge according to the pre-primary Federal Election Commission filing that was due Feb. 15. As revealed in the report, he had only $103,000 left to spend for the final drive. Schmidt, on the other hand, had raised just under $600,000 for the race.

Though Wenstrup has an apparent base in the eastern part of Cincinnati, an area he carried in the mayoral race and which is part of the new OH-2 congressional district, he has little presence in the six rural southwestern Ohio counties that comprise the remainder of the seat. Though Schmidt has never fully solidified her hold on the 2nd District since her original 2005 special election victory when she replaced Sen. Rob Portman (R) as he departed Congress to become President George W. Bush’s US trade ambassador and then budget director, she should comfortably turn back the Wenstrup challenge.

OH-3: Will Kilroy Return?

Turning to the new 3rd District in Columbus, former one-term Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D) is attempting to return to Congress in this newly created, heavily Democratic district. In the 2001 redistricting plan, there was no planned Democratic seat in the Columbus area, an odd situation for a major city that has, as the state capital, a large government employee population and hosts a major university (Ohio State). As a result, two seats that were originally intended for Republican incumbents were becoming highly competitive. The 2011 Republican redistricting plan to concede a new open Columbus seat to the Democrats allows the GOP to protect both the 12th (Rep. Pat Tiberi) and the 15th CDs (Rep. Steve Stivers) for the ensuing decade.

Such being the case, next Tuesday’s election will choose the new 3rd District member. Kilroy is being challenged by former state House Minority Leader Joyce Beatty, now in an administration position at Ohio State, and state Rep. Ted Celeste, the brother of former Gov. Richard Celeste.

Kilroy released an early poll giving her a huge lead, but Beatty countered last week saying her internal Public Policy Polling survey places her just one point behind the former congresswoman 34-35 percent. Beatty did not release the actual PPP study, however, so it is difficult to determine its methodology and questionnaire. Celeste is a distant third in all scenarios.

Ms. Beatty, an African-American in a district where blacks account for more than 28 percent of the population and a much greater percentage in a Democratic primary, is a substantial candidate and a threat to derail Kilroy’s comeback attempt. Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, himself once mentioned as a possible candidate for this congressional seat, has endorsed Beatty, which may prove important in terms of turning out the primary vote.

OH-9: Kaptur vs. Kucinich

The new 9th District, which stretches from Cleveland to Toledo along the Lake Erie shoreline, features a Democratic paired-incumbent contest between Reps. Marcy Kaptur and Dennis Kucinich.

Kaptur represents at least 100,000 additional constituents in the new 9th than does Kucinich. While keeping the larger Cuyahoga communities of Parma (population 77,274) and Lakewood (50,251), Kucinich loses North Olmstead (31,053), Westlake (30,331), and Garfield Heights (27,479). Kaptur, on the other hand, retains her entire Toledo (316,238 inhabitants) base. She also keeps Ottawa and Erie Counties, as well.

Though Kucinich has raised more money during the current election cycle than did Kaptur ($965,000 to $370,000), she has a very large cash-on-hand advantage, due to her many years of service on the important appropriations committee.

Endorsements favor Kaptur. Never representing any part of the Cleveland metropolitan area, the congresswoman has won the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper endorsement. This is likely due more to Kucinich’s unpopularity than Kaptur’s positive image but, regardless, this is an important endorsement in a Democratic primary. She also receives public support from Republican former senator and governor George Voinovich. This carries some weight, even in a Democratic primary, because Voinovich was the Mayor of Cleveland before running statewide. His imprimatur provides her one more Cleveland credential. Conversely, Kucinich has been endorsed by the Cuyahoga Democratic Club, Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, singer Willie Nelson, and Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA-4), thus indicating the flavor of the campaign.

Kucinich also is drawing flack about his foray into running from another state. When the national reapportionment was announced and it became known just how poorly Ohio fared, Kucinich, knowing that his seat would become a redistricting casualty, stated that he would not run against another incumbent and actually started searching for open seats in Washington and Hawaii. He said he had done well in those two states during his presidential campaign, and thus had a base of support in each place. This bizarre idea quickly faded, and he “returned” to Cleveland to challenge another Democratic incumbent, after all. But the locals haven’t forgotten.

Now, in his first advertisement of the campaign, a radio ad running only in Cleveland, Kucinich actually attacks “Toledo politics” inferring that the city is corrupt – the place that is now the largest community in his new district.

With the March 6th primary election fast approaching, there is nothing to suggest that anything other than a convincing Kaptur victory will result. Considering Kucinich was only able to muster 50.32 percent of the 2008 Democratic primary vote against four opponents in his own CD-10, it becomes evident that even his Cuyahoga base is weak. It is already becoming clear that Dennis Kucinich will become the first incumbent electoral casualty of the 2012 election season.

Redistricting Updates: Illinois, Ohio & Pennsylvania

A quick update on the redistricting front in a few states:

Illinois

The federal three-judge panel in Illinois rejected the Republican lawsuit against the state’s new 18-district congressional map. This means the Democrats’ maximum map will stand and elections throughout the decade will be conducted in these districts. The GOP’s last option is to appeal this decision. All Voting Rights Act cases are appealed directly to the US Supreme Court. The Democrats could gain as many as four seats in the Land of Lincoln next year.

Ohio

The Ohio Republicans were able to secure a two-thirds vote in each house of their legislature to pass their altered congressional redistricting map. The legislation must now go to Gov. John Kasich (R) for his signature. The new plan only slightly changes the Columbus area and leaves the remaining boundaries intact. The state loses two seats in reapportionment.

Three sets of incumbent pairings will occur. Democrats Marcy Kaptur (D-OH-9) and Dennis Kucinich (D-OH-10) will face each other in new District 9 that stretches from Toledo to Cleveland. Reps. Mike Turner (R-OH-3) and Steve Austria (R-OH-7) are paired in new District 10. And, finally, Reps. Betty Sutton (D-OH-13) and Jim Renacci (R-OH-16) are opposing each other in new District 16. In addition to the pairings, one former member, ex-Rep. Charlie Wilson (D-OH-6), has already announced his intention to seek a re-match with freshman Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH-6) in the revamped 6th District, which will be more friendly to a Republican candidate.

The plan is designed to elect twelve Republicans and four Democrats. The congressional primaries are now re-instated for March 6, as was originally intended. With Texas now almost assuredly moving to later in the year, the Ohio congressional primaries will now be the first in the nation.

Pennsylvania

A day after the proposed Pennsylvania congressional redistricting map was released to the public, it passed through the state Senate, but by only one vote. It must now clear the state House of Representatives and be signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett (R).

The map is designed to elect possibly as many as 13 Republicans in the 18 districts. Seven of the districts are strongly Republican. In five more, GOP incumbents are present, but President Obama carried the particular district in 2008. The five holding the marginal seats are: Reps. Jim Gerlach (CD 6 – Obama: 53), Pat Meehan (CD 7 – Obama: 51), Mike Fitzpatrick (CD 8 – Obama: 53), Charlie Dent (CD 15 – Obama: 52), and Joe Pitts (CD 16 – Obama: 50). In one seat, the new 12th CD that features a pairing of Democratic Reps. Jason Altmire (D-PA-4) and Mark Critz (D-PA-12), President Obama only tallied 45 percent of the vote, meaning that the winner of what promises to be a tough Democratic primary will also face a highly competitive general election. The Pennsylvania primary is scheduled for May 17.

Redistricting Update

Redistricting action occurred in the following three states during the past week:

CONNECTICUT (current delegation: 5D) – The members of the bi-partisan special legislative committee charged with drawing the new legislative and congressional maps have informed Gov. Dan Malloy (D) that a new committee will have to be authorized. The 30-day work period originally assigned the current panel will expire this Thursday. Once re-appointed, the eight member committee comprised of four Democrats and four Republicans will name a ninth member in order to break any tie that is likely to occur. Gov. Malloy is expected to grant the committee’s request for re-appointment and extension.

OHIO (current delegation: 13R-5D; loses two seats) – The House-passed congressional map is likely to gain state Senate approval this week and then move on to Gov. John Kasich (R) for his signature. Democrats have already pledged to attempt to qualify a citizens referendum to overturn the plan, but history tells us that the chance of successfully implementing such a maneuver is highly doubtful.

The Ohio map appears to be one of the better plans, from their perspective, drawn by a Republican-controlled entity. Pairing the Democrats against each other and adding a new Democratic open seat in Columbus to protect their two area marginal seats proves that they are drawing with a decade-long strategy in mind. The map is designed to deliver a 12R-4D party division. Here’s a look at how things are shaping up in some districts:

• District 3 (Open Seat) – The new 3rd District encompasses most of the city of Columbus and may prove to be the signature district of this map. It is unusual that Republican map drawers would create a new seat and make it Democratic, but that’s exactly what they did … and, it makes sense. Because Reps. Pat Tiberi (R-OH-12) and Steve Stivers (D-OH-15) have increasingly marginal districts (in fact, the Stivers’ seat was held by former Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D) for one term), putting a new Democratic seat in a city that houses both a state capital and major university is a smart play. Instead of risking a Republican seat every two years, the plan makes the two aforementioned GOP seats safe for the decade.

• District 8 (House Speaker John Boehner-R) – in what comes as no surprise to anyone, Mr. Boehner gets a safe Cincinnati-area suburban seat similar to the one he currently represents.

• District 9 (Reps. Marcy Kaptur-D and Dennis Kucinich-D) – since Ohio is losing two seats in reapportionment, it is unavoidable that at least four members will battle for two districts. One of the pairings is new District 9, that stretches from Cleveland to Toledo in a long narrow draw that hugs the Lake Erie shoreline. Kucinich, who was looking to run for re-election in either Washington or Hawaii because he said he would not run against a fellow incumbent, will again seek election in Ohio and challenge a colleague.

• District 11 (Rep. Marcia Fudge-D) – it is likely that Ms. Fudge will be the only incumbent Democrat that gets an easy ride to re-election. Comprised of the downtown regions in both Cleveland and Akron, Fudge could conceivably be primaried by Rep. Sutton who currently represents the Akron portion of the district, but such a scenario is unlikely. The 11th will prove to be a safe African-American Democratic seat for Ms. Fudge.

TEXAS (current delegation: 23R-9D; gains four seats) – As expected by many, the US Justice Department, while pre-clearing the recently enacted state Senate and Board of Education maps, has so far failed to approve the congressional and state House plans. DoJ is requesting more information about both maps, but it appears the congressional plan, as submitted, has major legal issues. It is unlikely that the map presented will actually take effect as drawn. The legal proceedings in San Antonio continue as well. Look for more definitive action here as the year draws to a close.

Kucinich Returns to Ohio

When it became clear that Ohio was losing two seats in reapportionment and that Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s (D-OH-10) Cleveland district would be one of the two collapsed, the gadfly politician and former presidential candidate began searching for a new district … in Washington state and Hawaii.

Mr. Kucinich said he did not want to run against another incumbent, and he “did well” in those two places during his presidential run, so he was testing the waters for an open seat contest in the pair of states. Obviously, the Washington and Hawaii local Democratic activists and partisans didn’t think much of his idea, so he is returning to Ohio to seek re-election after all.

Now that the just unveiled Ohio redistricting map places he and Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH-9) together in a new 9th district that stretches from Cleveland to Toledo, Kucinich is changing his mind and will challenge a fellow incumbent. Ms. Kaptur, first elected in 1982, retains all of her Toledo political base and most of the Lake Erie area that attaches her territory to Cleveland, but 57 percent of the new 9th’s registered Democrats currently reside in Kucinich’s 10th CD. For his part, the congressman said, “I have been praying that I could continue to serve my Cleveland-area constituency, and it looks like I have a chance. That is all I could have hoped for.” Though his prayers may have been answered, we still have to rate Kaptur as the early favorite.