UPDATE — Veteran Democrat Marcy Kaptur soundly defeated (55-41) Dennis Kucinich in Ohio's newly redrawn 9th congressional district that pitted the two long-time incumbents into a bruising primary. Kaptur will face Republican newcomer Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher in November as she seeks a 16th term.. The eight-term Kucinich, one of the most liberal members of the House, is not counted among Israel's 400 best friends in the House. Kaptur has a positive record, according to pro-Israel lobbyists. The district is considered to be strongly Democratic.
The contest to see who represents northern Ohio’s new very blue 9th district will be decided in the March 6 Democratic primary, and it offers a clear choice for friends of Israel.
The two leading contenders in the district that stretches from the west side of Cleveland into Toledo are a pair of veteran liberal lawmakers, 15-term Marcy Kaptur and eight-term Dennis Kucinich. Challenging the two 65-year-old incumbents is a long-shot 29-year-old Cleveland businessman and political novice, Graham Veysey.
On the Republican side are two newcomers, Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher and Steve Kraus. The Sun News, a string of weekly newspapers in the Cleveland area, interviewed both and found them to be woefully uninformed and “don’t measure up” to the job. The district is considered strongly Democratic.
Kucinich, a two-time long-shot presidential wannabe, built a reputation as one of Israel’s harshest critics on Capitol Hill.
When there have been lopsided votes in Congress backing Israel’s “right to defend itself” against Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza, funding Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system or calling for UN action against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for advocating wiping Israel off the map, you could often find Kucinich voting “No” with another presidential wannabe from the opposite side of the aisle, Libertarian Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. Maybe that’s why Paul once said that if elected he might pick Kucinich for his cabinet.
Kucinich isn’t running for president his year because he is fighting to stay in the House, thanks to redistricting that is cutting Ohio’s delegation by two to 16.
Kucinich lost most of his Cleveland district and, after a failed foray to Washington state shopping for a new constituency to represent, decided to challenge 15-term Rep. Marcy Kaptur, who also lost part of her Toledo area district. The new 9th district, which stretches 100 miles along Lake Erie’s southern shore, is almost evenly divided between the two old districts. Both of their old districts had active Arab-American constituencies.
A veteran pro-Israel activist on Capitol Hill who has known and worked with both lawmakers since they came to Congress, was asked to compare their Israel voting records.
“It is not even a close call,” the activist said. “Kucinich goes out of his way to vocally oppose just about everything, especially on Iran. Kaptur’s only had one or two bad votes.”
Kaptur, who recently returned from a trip to Israel with Cleveland and Toledo Jewish federation leaders, like to remind voters of Kucinich’s trips to Iran and Syria.
Kucinich led a delegation to Damascus last summer amidst the uprising against Bashar Assad’s regime. Under siege from the West for its brutal attacks on demonstrators, the Assad regime was delighted to welcome Kucinich.
He claimed SANA, the Syrian news agency, misquoted him as saying Assad, who he first visited in 2007, is leading “towards a new Syria and everybody who meets him can be certain of this. President al-Assad is highly loved and appreciated by the Syrians.”
Kucinich later attributed those quotes to “mistranslations” and insisted he had actually said “a process of national dialogue” was underway in Syria and Assad had committed to democratic reform.
Kucinich has defended Ahmadinejad, saying his call to wipe Israel off the map – he really did say it and Iranian media like to quote him – was merely a call for regime change, and not killing Israelis or eliminating the Jewish homeland.
Kucinich condemned the Israeli raid on the Turkish Gaza flotilla as “an act of belligerence against Turkey,” and he has called for U.S. diplomatic and economic sanctions against Israel.
Kaptur two years ago defeated Republican Rich Iott, who had gained notoriety by his fondness for dressing up like a Nazi SS soldier for World War II reenactments. Joe the Plumber endorsed Iott in 2010, and Iott returned the favor this year.
The choice for friends of Israel living in Ohio’s new 9th District is clear.
Disclosure: I’ve known Dennis Kucinich since the mid-1960s when we were colleagues on the Cleveland Plain Dealer; I was a reporter and he was a copy boy.