Kucinich may flee Ohio if his seat is nixed in redistricting

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) is doing little to tamp down rumors he could bolt his home state ahead of the 2012 election to run for Congress elsewhere.

Ohio is losing two congressional districts next year in the redistricting process, and Kucinich’s district is on the chopping block. 

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The eight-term lawmaker has said he plans to stay in Congress but doesn’t want to run against a colleague, prompting speculation he could move to an area with an open seat.

Washington state could be a likely contender for a Kucinich move, considering it’s getting an additional congressional seat in a Democratic-leaning area, but the head of that state’s Democratic Party didn’t sound too welcoming Tuesday.

“I think it’s a fantasy,” Washington state Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz told The Hill’s Ballot Box. “I just don’t think voters are interested in seeing something like that happen.”

After he held a fundraiser in Tacoma, Wash. late last week, speculation that Kucinich is looking for a new home there is running wild.

The state’s new congressional district could work for the lawmaker, assuming he could overcome the local politics at play, as well as charges of carpetbagging. 

The new district will be liberal by all accounts, but Pelz largely dismissed Kucinich’s chances, noting that other Democrats are already looking at the new seat, and he voiced his doubts that Kucinich was seriously considering a move.

“Well, I know he’s been here twice and the new district will be centered in a very liberal area, but I just don’t see how it makes sense,” Pelz said.

Kucinich’s office points out that the lawmaker is in demand.

“After people found out that Congressman Kucinich’s district could be eliminated or substantially altered in congressional redistricting by the Ohio Legislature’s Republican majority, Congressman Kucinich received requests from people in 20 states, including Washington state, encouraging him to move and run in their area,” Kucinich spokesman Nathan White said in a statement Monday.

At last week’s fundraiser in Tacoma, Kucinich detailed his redistricting woes, telling the crowd that political interests in Ohio are all “coming together in a celebration of ‘not me.’ This of course, leaves me without a district,” according to The Mountain News.

Given the state’s population trends, University of Washington Professor Dick Morrill argues the most logical spot for a new 10th district in Washington state would be near Olympia — just a few miles from where Kucinich held a Friday fundraiser.

Asked specifically on Tuesday about entreaties from states other than Washington, a Kucinich spokesman would only refer The Hill to the previously released statement.

White’s statement also pointed to a recent Kucinich interview with “The Daily Show,” which he called “instructive of this sentiment.” The segment takes a satirical look at how the liberal Democrat manages to keep winning reelection in the swing state of Ohio and features Kucinich showing off his skills as a ventriloquist. 

The segment jokingly concludes that because Ohio Republicans have been unable to oust Kucinich in recent years, they have resorted to eliminating his district, which has resulted in a clamoring from other states for his representation. 

“If my district is dismantled in redistricting, I will look for another district to run in,” Kucinich said in the “Daily Show” segment, which aired April 14.

If Kucinich is serious about a run in another state, his options are limited. The states gaining new congressional districts next year are mostly in GOP territory.

Texas is gaining four congressional seats, while Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina and Utah are gaining one. Nevada’s new seat is likely to be Democratic-leaning, but locals are already lining up for that one.

The only other state set to gain seats is Florida, which will add two congressional districts.