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May, 3rd 2011

Kucinich to carpet-bag a seat in WA? How about he primaries Jim McDermott?

– Liz Mair

Interesting item I missed yesterday from the Seattle Times' Jim Brunner:

It may sound like a crazy rumor, but Ohio's Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich may really be thinking about running for Congress in Washington state — possibly in the yet-to-be drawn new 10th District.

As noted by Eli Sanders at the Stranger, there is talk among high-level political sources about why Kucinich, the fiery liberal-vegan-sometimes-presidential-candidate has been spending time recently in Washington state.

I thought this was nuts when I first heard about it today, but have since talked to a reputable source who says there may be something to the chatter.

A call to Kucinich's office this afternoon did not put the rumor to rest.

Kucinich's press secretary, Nathan White, sent along this statement:

"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 twenty states, including Washington State, encouraging him to move and run in their area. The Daily Show interview is instructive of this sentiment.

I query whether Kucinich could actually get himself a seat if he pursued this plan (especially as it directly relates to the new 10th district, or eight of the other nine that will exist in 2012).  That's not just because a) voters don't tend to love carpet-baggers (and Washingtonians are particularly skeptical of outsiders) b) Kucinich is way, way to the left of the vast majority of voters outside of Jim McDermott's district (and Olympia) and/or c) members who had a vaguely close call last time (think Smith and/or Larsen) may want to shore up their positions in redistricting by dumping more hard Ds into their seats, but also for this specific reason: Kucinich, last I checked, had a pretty weak record on free trade.  

Washington is, of course, a heavily trade dependent state. Our members, even the extremely liberal McDermott, are pretty trade friendly.  Here's how the CATO Institute depicts McDermott's lifetime record on trade:

Kucinich, meanwhile, is basically a trade restrictionist. Here's how CATO depicts his lifetime record on trade:

Do voters scrutinize records on free trade when going to the polls?  Not in depth, no.  But Washington area businesses treat this stuff pretty seriously and that record would be a huge problem for them.  I would imagine an issue would be made of it.  Voters might notice that, and feel that on important economic issues like trade, Kucinich is still in-step with his Ohio district, but not at all in-step with the Evergreen State and its needs and priorities.  Which would seem a correct conclusion to me, on its face.

That's not going to fly in a toss-up to vaguely liberal Washington district, especially one like the 10th is likely to be.  

But it might-- just might-- pass muster in McDermott's backyard.  Maybe Kucinich should primary McDermott?

Washingtonian operatives from both parties routinely complain that McDermott is a lot more talk than action, and doesn't do the job representing the district that he should, quite apart from ideology.  My impression is that as nutty-liberal as Kucinich is, he's a harder worker.

Washington welcomes unemployed Ohioans now, just as it did 20 years ago.  Seattle area voters might just be persuadable that they should help one particular unemployed Ohioan out, and ditch the fairly ineffective left-wing representation they've been getting out of McDermott for years now.  But that's about the only way Kucinich is going to get elected to Congress by Evergreen State voters. [intro]

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