US Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) knocks em dead at Comedy Underground
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  • US Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) knocks 'em dead at Comedy Underground

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Local progressive activists packed into the NWroots conference at Seattle's Comedy Underground on Saturday to listen to and mingle with a variety of speakers, including WA Representatives Jim McDermott and Jay Inslee, and former Canadian Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh (who gave perhaps the most interesting speech of the day, if kinda wonky). But by far the biggest draw was Ohio congressman and former presidential candidate Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who, facing the likelihood of being redistricted out of his Cleveland area seat, is reportedly considering a comeback in WA's 1st Congressional District.

The liberal firebrand didn't disappoint, railing against the banks ("Who the hell thinks the banks are gonna do the right thing?") and arguing for a more proactive approach to both our economic crisis and our deteriorating public infrastructure ("What is wrong with using public money ... to do all the things that need to be done?"). Afterwards Kucinich posed for photos with fans, many of which came to urge him to move his brand of progressive politics to Washington state. "I was just thrilled to have shook his hand," a smitten Nicholas Celms told me.

Yes, Kucinich was a big hit with progressive activists in dark blue Seattle, but could he win a redrawn WA-01? Rep. Adam Smith (WA-09) doesn't think so:

"We're called 'representatives' for a reason," Smith says dismissively about his Democratic colleague's prospects. "Washington voters want their congressmen to represent Washington, not Ohio." That's a sentiment that may not be shared by the throng of admirers who circled Kucinich on Saturday, but is pretty much the accepted wisdom amongst local political insiders and observers.

Even if carpetbagging weren't a fatal weakness (and it probably is), it's hard to imagine Kucinich fitting the district, whatever WA-01's new boundaries turn out to be. During his tenure, Inslee helped turn a swing district into a safe Democratic one, but he didn't do it by being as liberal as Seattle's McDermott. According to Progressive Punch, Inslee is only the 130th most progressive member of Congress, with a lifetime score of 88 percent, whereas McDermott ranks 22nd, with a score of 95 percent. In reality, Kucinich's voting record only ranks him slightly more progressive than Inslee, but that's not the public perception.

Kucinich is a progressive icon. And while Seattleites might love him for it, that's just not gonna play well with swing voters in a WA-01 that isn't even as liberal as Inslee.

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When asked point blank about his intentions, Kucinich was noncommittal. "I'm not a candidate," Kucinich told me after the event, insisting that I was getting "too far out in front" of events. But he wouldn't deny his interest in WA-01, saying that's a decision he'd have to make "by the end of the year."

I personally like Kucinich, and love the fact that there's somebody like him in Congress pushing the agenda from the left, and talking as bluntly as he does. And as a political writer, it would be a blast to cover somebody like him in our state delegation. But count me among the folks who just can't see how he wins.

There's nothing ignoble about being redistricted out of a seat, but moving to Snohomish County only to come in third or fourth in a top-two primary, well that's another story. And I'd hate to see Kucinich end his career on such a low note.

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