Kucinich supporters eye Washington state move to revive his political career

Rep. Dennis Kucinich's (D) admission that he's examining his options in Washington state has his supporters wondering whether, once again, he can resurrect his downtrodden political career.

Kucinich was left with no Ohio district to run in after he lost his primary against fellow Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio). Kaptur and Kucinich were drawn into the same district in 2011 by GOP map-makers, but Kaptur came out 16 points ahead when the two squared off in the March 6 primary.

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Rumors that Kucinich would seek election in Washington state have been in circulation for about a year — ever since it became clear that his Ohio district might be on the chopping block in redistricting. The eight-term congressman had survived tough challenges before, and was left for dead in 1979, when he sought reelection after a ruinous term as Cleveland’s mayor and was defeated, only to climb his way back and eventually secure a seat in the House in 1996.

After losing in the primary in March, Kucinich said he planned to say in Ohio and finish his term. But in an interview on Thursday with Seattle TV station King 5, Kucinich left the door wide open, prompting renewed speculation about his future plans.

“I haven't really made up my mind what I'm going to be doing with my future,” Kucinich said. “I'm looking at all my options.”

Kucinich was in Washington state to speak at a Social Security forum on Thursday — a move that further fueled chatter that he could be eyeing a new home state.

Kucinich’s congressional office did not respond to an inquiry from The Hill, and his former campaign spokesman said only Kucinich himself could address his intentions.

But a group in the Evergreen State has been working to draft Kucinich to run there, out of reluctance to see one of the House’s most liberal voices lose his seat.

“If he were just any regular congressman, it wouldn’t matter,” said David Spring of Washington Citizens for Kucinich. “But with what’s happening with the trillion-dollar endless wars, we need a voice in Congress speaking out for the cause of peace.”

If Kucinich does choose to run, he’ll have to act fast. Candidates have until May 18 to file to run in Washington, which holds its congressional primary on August 7.

To be eligible to run in Washington state, Kucinich would have to establish residency there. He would also have to make a decision about whether to step down before the end of his term in Ohio, or to try to run in Washington state while simultaneously representing Ohio — a move that could earn him the scorn of his current constituents.

But if he does run in Washington, his options are plentiful. The state has three open House seats that lean Democratic, and the bench of Democratic candidates for those seats is less than stellar.

Former Rep. Jay Inslee’s (D-Wash.) decision to step down from the House in March to focus fulltime on his gubernatorial bid opened up his Seattle-area district, which was made even friendlier for Democrats by redistricting. Washington’s 6thcongressional district, where Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash) is retiring, is also a good option for a liberal Democrat like Kucinich; the redrawn district went 74 percent for President Obama in 2008. A new district created after the 2010 U.S. Census and centered in Olympia, Wash., could also be an option.

But regardless of where he were to run, Kucinich could face major resistance — especially if his move westward were perceived as opportunistic or self-serving. The Seattle Times has already dubbed Kucinich a carpetbagger for making frequent trips to Washington while flirting with a run there. The chairman of the Washington State Democrats, Dwight Pelz, has also come out against a Kucinich run.

For Kucinich’s loyal followers, it matters little where he runs, as long as he stays in the House. Spring said he has been contacted by similar groups in Florida and Oregon who are also interested in finding a seat for Kucinich in their states.

“Our mission is to keep him in Congress,” Spring said. “We will support any effort to have him run, in any state in America.”