By Steve Miller
TOLEDO — U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur bid goodbye to political foe, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, before the votes were counted and her victory was sealed Tuesday night.
“I want to thank him for a spirited campaign,” Kaptur said to 100 supporters at a gathering here in a downtown union hall. “He wants to help our country, too, and I know that he will find a way to do that.”
In Cleveland, Kucinich did not admit defeat but quietly slipped out of what was supposed to be a victory party.
The Plain Dealer in Cleveland called it for Kaptur shortly after 11 p.m., and no one disagreed.
Unofficially, Kaptur had won four of the five counties in the district and 56 percent of the vote to Kucinich’s 40 percent. A third candidate, Graham Veysey, earned 4 percent of the vote.
It was the end of a hard-fought Democratic primary for the two incumbents, who were thrown together after redistricting allowed state Republicans to reconfigure Kaptur’s 9th Congressional District into a jagged mess last fall, welding the districts of Kaptur and Kucinich together in a 120-mile stretch of Lake Erie coastline from Toledo to Cleveland.
But she could only muster roughly 25 percent of the vote in Cuyahoga County, in which Cleveland sits and a place that Kucinich began his political career as a 22-year-old city councilman.
Kaptur extended a political glad hand to the county, though, despite the snub, promising to give her new constituents “the same representation we have given here,” referring to the Toledo area.
And Kaptur voiced her hopes that she will be considered for the open chair of the House Appropriations Committee, of which she has been a member since 1989.
“I could chair the appropriations committee,” Kaptur said, eliciting cheers from the more Beltway familiar in the audience. “I know that seniority has already gone to work for this community, and I don’t plan to quit.”
In Cleveland, Kucinich supporters at Rubin’s Family Restaurant on the city’s west side expected to hear a concession speech. Instead, the 65-year-old Kucinich concluded his campaign and his 16 years in Washington, D.C., with an unbridled attack on his opponent.
“I would like to be able to congratulate Congresswoman Kaptur, but I do have to say that she ran a campaign in the Cleveland media market that was utterly lacking in integrity, with false statements, half-truths and misrepresentations,” Kucinich said. “I hope that that is not the kind of representation that she would provide to the community.”
Kucinich earlier in the day bought 60-second spots on Cleveland’s premier radio station WTAM for a last-minute plea to turn out voters, telling them that the redistricting threatened to leave Cleveland without representation. He cited a number of accomplishments done on behalf of the city.
But he was fighting a hard fight from the start. The Cook Political Report found the new district included 47 percent of Kaptur’s old district and 39 percent of Kucinich’s.
The two had pronounced differences. Kaptur is a social centrist, against federal tax dollars for abortion while Kucinich supports the funding. Kaptur also backs the Keystone XL Pipeline, while Kucinich is a strident environmentalist who opposes it.
Kucinich and his national profile, formidable via his two quixotic presidential runs in 2004 and 2008, had a hard time playing to the smaller communities in the new district.
In some places, like the area just east of Toledo, he was somewhat persona non grata. Last year, he asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to shut down the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station, a major employer in the area, because of safety concerns. At the time, the facility wasn’t in his district. Redistricting put it in. Continue reading.