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Dennis Kucinich out: Left loses a combative, cheerful voice in Congress

Former presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich lost in the Democratic primary Tuesday to Rep. Marcy Kaptur after their Ohio districts were merged by a Republican redistricting plan.

By Staff writer / March 7, 2012

Along with his wife Elizabeth, US Rep. Dennis Kucinich greets his supporters at Rubin's Restaurant and Deli in Cleveland as the votes are tallied in his race against US Rep. Marcy Kaptur on Tuesday night, March 6.

Amy Sancetta/AP

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Dennis Kucinich, the so-called boy mayor who eventually turned presidential candidate, may have reached the end of his career in elective politics.

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In Tuesday's Ohio primary vote, he fell victim to redistricting, losing to another sitting member Congress in the Democratic primary. Instead of Representative Kucinich, the Democratic candidate for Ohio's recently redrawn 9th district will be Rep. Marcy Kaptur.

Kucinich carved out a profile on the national stage as a fighter for progressive and populist causes. Though he stood shorter than many of his political rivals, his droll humor and quick wit sometimes allowed him to tower over opponents, at least judging by the applause he elicited from the party faithful.

But he drew only a slender share of the popular vote in his primary-race efforts to become the party's presidential nominee in 2004 and 2008. The very things that endeared him to some voters made him "unelectable" to others.

His primary loss Tuesday night was rooted in shifts in the US population, which cost Ohio two of its 18 seats in Congress heading into this year's election. Kucinich and Ms. Kaptur, a 15-term congresswoman, found themselves facing off in a Republican-drawn district that stretches along the shore of Lake Erie from Toledo (Kaptur's turf) to the Cleveland area (Kucinich's).

After winning the primary, Kaptur will face the winner of the Republican primary, Samuel "Joe" Wurzelbacher, who became known as "Joe the Plumber" when he voiced worries about Obama tax policies during the 2008 presidential campaign.

If this marks the end of Kucinich's career as an elected politician, he will have left memories that are viewed variously by many Americans as good, bad, or just quirky.

Bashing Bush and Cheney

"They're out of control," he said of President Bush and Vice President, Dick Cheney, during a late 2007 presidential debate. A relenteless critic of the Iraq war and the way it was launched, Kucinich outlined a provocative response before the CNN audience. "It's called impeachment, and you don't wait. You do it now."

He added: "I'm actualy the only one on this stage who voted against the war, voted against funding the war one hundred percent of the time."

Concern for civil rights

In the same debate, CNN correspondent Wolf Blitzer raised the issue of new homeland-security policies under the Bush administration's war on terror. "You voted against the Patriot Act," Mr. Blitzer said to Kucinich.

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