Rep. Dennis Kucinich may be shopping for a new district — and a new state — but he shouldn’t expect his colleagues to embrace the quirky plan if it comes to fruition.
The reaction within the delegation from Washington state, where the Ohio Democrat appears to be eyeing moving if his district gets eliminated in redistricting, has been tepid at best. Furthermore, moving out West might be more complicated than Kucinich has considered because of the state’s redistricting process.
“That’s a long, long way from Ohio to Washington state,” Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said. “I would be skeptical about whether or not that would be well-received by the bulk of the people in the state of Washington, but I guess we’ll wait and see.”
Kucinich has been traveling through the Evergreen State this year and his office has done little to tamp down speculation that he is looking to run there.
When Kucinich was questioned Tuesday about whether he is looking for a Washington address, he stared directly at the reporter and quickly walked onto the House floor for a vote without responding.
Earlier this week, Kucinich spokesman Nathan White boasted in a statement that the Congressman has “received request[s] from people in twenty states, including Washington State, encouraging him to move and run in their area.”
“As he has repeatedly said, he fully intends to remain in Congress; he just doesn’t know in what district he will run,” White said.
Democrats in the Washington delegation, however, remain skeptical that Kucinich can pull off the move. Rep. Jim McDermott (D) chuckled when asked about a Kucinich candidacy, then quipped: “I don’t know. I came from Chicago.”
Other members of the delegation punted, saying it was up to the voters to decide whether they like Kucinich.
“That’s an interesting idea,” remarked Rep. Jay Inslee (D), who is considering a gubernatorial bid in 2012. “I would say that our views are almost totally irrelevant. ... It would be the voters’ views that would be relevant in this issue.”
Kucinich might find it challenging to change his residency, even though he does not have to live in his next potential House district.
In order to run for Congress in the state, Kucinich must be a registered Washington voter before the June 2012 filing deadline. But to register to vote there, Kucinich must prove residency for at least 30 days — including a paper trail that shows he has established a domicile in the state. Local election officials cautioned that Kucinich would have to follow the law perfectly or be susceptible to a lawsuit.
“We’re not New York. You can’t just move here. I think he would have a lot of headwinds if he were to just move in and instantly run,” said David Ammons, a spokesman for the Washington secretary of state’s office.
Relocating to Washington state could also be a tricky move for Kucinich, given that it’s unclear where the state’s new 10th district will be and Members will not know until the end of 2011. Washington is gaining a district in reapportionment, but because a bipartisan commission draws the new Congressional map, the district’s location is anybody’s guess.
“Obviously, up front, we prefer to have Washingtonians run for Washingtonian Congressional seats,” Smith said. “But at this point, it’s pretty much a hypothetical.”
It’s highly likely that there will be major changes in the overpopulated exurban Seattle districts represented by Rep. Dave Reichert and freshman Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler.
Not surprisingly, those two Republicans seemed more welcoming to a Kucinich bid than their Democratic colleagues. If a strong Democrat such as Kucinich runs in the growing, traditionally Democratic area, it could make the Republican duo’s districts less competitive.
“I guess he’s free to run wherever he feels like he can win,” Reichert said. “I’m happy to work with any Member of Congress.”
Herrera Beutler said Kucinich reached out to her before his last visit to her district — a courtesy that she “really appreciated.”
“It’s a free country, and constitutionally, he would have the right. It’s up to the people of Washington to determine whether or not that’s a run or it’s not a real run,” she said. “We may disagree on a lot of issues, but someone who’s willing to be upright and forthright about it you can work with.”
Kucinich’s office has been mum about other aspects of a bid in Washington, which was first reported by local media and confirmed by the Daily Caller.
Kucinich’s travels have done most of the talking so far: He has spent a significant amount of time in the state, hosting a low-cost fundraiser at a union hall and a town hall forum at a church in Tacoma on Friday, followed by events on Bainbridge Island and a march for immigrants’ rights in Seattle over the weekend. In February, Kucinich attended a union rally and the state Democratic Party’s annual crab feed.
Kucinich also briefly stayed in the state in the 1980s with actress and friend Shirley MacLaine. It was during that time that Kucinich and MacLaine famously spotted a UFO at her home in Graham.
Public speculation about an out-of-state bid most likely originated when the Congressman appeared on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” last month. In what was widely interpreted as a satirical segment, cast member John Oliver pressed Kucinich about where he would run for Congress if his district is eliminated.
Kucinich topped off the segment by saying he would “take his talents to Edgewater Beach in Cleveland, Ohio, and stay in Cleveland” in a scene set up to mimic NBA player LeBron James’ much-anticipated announcement last summer that he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat.
Like James, perhaps Kucinich won’t be sticking around Cleveland much longer either.