Dennis Kucinich, the eight-term Congressman from Cleveland, lost his bid for re-election last night in a primary to fellow Rep. Marcy Kaptur. Ohio lost two seats after the 2010 reapportionment, and eliminated a seat in the Cleveland region, giving Kucinich few options. He decided to try to defeat Kaptur largely on her turf, and came up well short, 55-41. In places like Lucas County, home to Toledo, the base that Kaptur has represented for 15 terms, she trounced Kucinich 94-3, and he could not make up the ground elsewhere.

The district itself is a monument to gerrymandering, connecting a small piece of Cleveland and Toledo on a 120-mile stretch along Lake Erie.

Kucinich was an often lonely voice in Congress, particularly on matters of war. The criticism that he didn’t accomplish a great deal in his eight terms merely reflects the fact that his take on the issues placed him well to the left of the Democratic mainstream. Kaptur is a reliably liberal and even populist vote on economic issues. She’s also anti-choice and was a major thorn in the party’s side on the Stupak amendment, a real black mark in her record.

But this race came down to geographics, and it was foolish to hope that Kucinich could pull off the upset. There’s been persistent talk that Kucinich would move to Washington state to find a seat, and that could still happen – he has until May 18 to get on the primary ballot. He doesn’t have a whole lot of options in Washington, however, given their redistricting changes and his profile. He may have to face another incumbent or take part in an open-seat race in a less liberal district than what he represented in Ohio.

The Kaptur-Kucinich primary was the first of a handful of races across the country where incumbents will face one another due to redistricting. Kaptur goes on to face Joe the Pumber, who inexplicably ran for a seat designed to be Democratic vote sink, in the general election.

In other primary races in Ohio, Mean Jean Schmidt lost to a challenger who ran to her right, and former Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy lost a Columbus-area race. Those of us expecting that incumbents would face a poisonous electoral environment this year were not disappointed in Ohio, and with Congressional approval numbers under 10%, that looks like it will only continue.

David Dayen

David Dayen