Ohioans will go to the polls to vote in a number of elections, including gubernatorial primaries, to select candidates to replace term-limited Republican John Kasich on May 8. Multiple candidates are running to replace Kasich, but one who has gained much attention in recent weeks is former Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich. While some of Kucinich’s positions may appeal to progressives, he has taken actions that render his candidacy unacceptable and necessitate that Ohio Democrats vote to block him from winning the nomination.
First, Kucinich has been far too friendly with President Donald Trump and other Republicans. On Jan. 20, 2017, Kucinich tweeted, “Great #Inauguration speech @RealDonaldTrump!” Kucinich elaborated more on Facebook saying, “I call upon all Americans to join in a common effort to create a great vision for our country, our people and for peace in the world. Let’s give him and ourselves a chance.”
Kucinich has also been skeptical about the Russia investigation, and was a paid contributor on Fox News. Kucinich has gushed over President Trump and appeared in conservative venues, but he was highly critical of President Barack Obama, saying that his approval of air strikes in Libya were “impeachable.”
Given his condemnation of President Obama’s military strategy, one would expect Kucinich to be more steadfast in his criticism for these types of actions. Yet, in addition to praising President Trump, Kucinich has also expressed favorable sentiments toward other Republicans. For example, Kucinich attended the annual Conservative Political Action Committee conference in 2015, sharing the stage with Congressman Steve King of Iowa, a man who once referred to President Obama as “a Kim Jong POTUS.” Kucinich said “I feel comfortable here,” when asked about his attendance.
More importantly, Kucinich is uncomfortably close with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Kucinich has taken multiple trips to Syria to meet with Assad and was paid $20,000 by a pro-Assad group to give a speech in 2017. Kucinich claims to be a promoter of peace but seems completely comfortable pocketing large sums of money in support of a man who has used chemical weapons against his own people.
Kucinich’s behavior regarding Syria, alongside his other actions, demonstrates that he lacks the judgment to serve in public office. While there is a good chance that he would be defeated in the general election by Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine (a poor outcome in itself) there is always the possibility that he could win. Like Republicans tried (and failed) to do with President Trump, it is important to take action during primary season in order to avoid an untenable nominee.
So what can Kenyon students do? In short, vote in the Democratic primary and support the only candidate who can stop Kucinich: Richard Cordray. Cordray is a former Ohio Attorney General, served as Director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau under President Obama and has been endorsed by Elizabeth Warren.
One concern that many Kenyon students have had over the years is whether or not it is appropriate to vote in a state election in Ohio. I would only point out that, according to the New York Times “Upshot blog,” a quarter of Ohioans were not born in the state, a figure that includes the state’s current governor. In today’s mobile economy, it is not uncommon for people to spend short periods of time in a state before moving to another state.
Dennis Kucinich presents a danger to the Ohio Democratic Party — and the state of Ohio more broadly — and it is important to vote in the Democratic primary and encourage friends and family to do so. Otherwise, a month from now we might be talking about Nominee Kucinich and a year from now we might be talking about Governor Kucinich.
Jacob Smith ’12 is a Ph.D. candidate in political science at UNC-Chapel Hill and a native Ohioan.