In the first member-vs-member primary of the cycle, Ohio Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur beat Rep. Dennis Kucinich for Ohio’s new 9th district.
It was a decisive victory; Kaptur winning 56 percent to 40 percent.
Kucinich’s defeat means the House will lose one of its most colorful characters, as well as one of the most vocal opponents to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In a speech just before midnight on Tuesday, Kucinich congratulated Kaptur but said she “ran a media campaign in the Cleveland media market that was utterly lacking in integrity.”
Ohio lost two seats thanks to lagging population growth, and Republicans took advantage of their control of the process to force Democrats into tough races. While Kucinich is far better known nationally, the demographics of the new barbell-shaped district favored Kaptur.
Republicans drew a seat that took 47 percent of Kaptur’s Toledo-based district and 40 percent of Kucinich’s Cleveland-based territory.
Kaptur’s seniority and seat on the Appropriations Committee also gave her a reputation for bringing money home, while some Kucinich constituents gripe that he ignores their needs. She ran a tough campaign, attacking Kucinich repeatedly for considering leaving Ohio for a bid in Washington state.
Kucinich could still move to the Pacific Northwest; the filing deadline there is in mid-April. But he would have to try to establish residency in Washington while representing Ohio in Congress.
Elected mayor of Cleveland in 1977 at the age of 31, Kucinich was pilloried for refusing to sell the city’s Municipial Light System, plunging the city into default. He lost after one term, in 1979, to Republican George Voinovich. (Years later, Kucinich argued that he saved the city $195,148,520.)
Kucinich left politics after his defeat, reemerging in 1996 to win his current House seat. Since then he has become a favorite of liberals during his quixotic 2004 and 2008 presidential campaigns.
The seat is overwhelmingly Democratic and will not be competitive in the fall. Samuel Wurzelbacher, better known as “Joe the Plumber,” won the Republican primary.