Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) was still running for president two weeks ago, despite polling in the single-digits and being excluded from debates. Then, on January 25th, he formally ended his campaign, citing his determination to stay focused on Cleveland, "the community that is first in my heart."
Before he dropped out, four democratic rivals had already been campaigning against him for his seat in the House. One of his opponents, Cleveland City Councilman Joe Cimperman, had raised four times more for his congressional bid than Kucinich had, according to The Cleveland Plain Dealer, which endorsed Cimperman the day after Kucinich formally ended his presidential run.
Much of Cimperman's campaign has focused on portraying Kucinich as an absentee representative, including the use of "missing" posters that feature a picture of the Congressman. But Cimperman is also running on his own record and, borrowing a theme from the national elections, as a self-proclaimed agent of change.
"[Kucinich] has been at the helm for twelve years," said Cimperman. "It's not like he's just been elected. And it's really sad when you see the results, which are pretty slim, in terms of what's actually happened. And I think that's exactly why a lot of people are feeling that it's time for a change, and I'm the change agent... people know my record, they know who I am. You know, I'm a son of this community. People know I'm gonna fight for them, they know they can trust me."
Cimperman, who supported Kucinich's 2004 bid for the White House, considers the second run a waste of resources.
"I think a lot of people felt, you know what, go for it... give it your best shot, see what you can do," he said. "But, you know, now to do it a second time, to waste the resources a second time, to divert attention the second time -- I think people just felt enough was enough."
Perhaps part of Cimperman's passion comes from feeling "betrayed."
"He told a lot of people in North Eastern Ohio -- he told me -- that he would never run for the presidency again," said Cimperman. "I think it just showed that his desire to get out there and have his name known by more people was more important than his desire to actually work."
Calling Kucinich's most recent presidential bid the stuff of "foolish aspirations," Cimperman entered rapid-fire mode, describing his reasons for running as part anti-Kucinich, part pro-Cimperman.
"I'm running on the fact that he's missed 130 votes [during the current term]. I'm running on the fact that he hasn't delivered for this district," said Cimperman. "I'm running on the fact that I've brought in thousands of jobs, opened two health clinics. I'm running on the fact that I can get things done and he can't."
Citing privately conducted polls the details of which he would not reveal, Cimperman said that there has been a trend of Kucinich losing support in this congressional primary both before and after Cimperman entered the race. When asked whether he was Kucinich's biggest rival according to the polls, he had this to say: "I think so. I think a lot of people see us as the credible alternative, and I think a lot of people are feeling that they can support me, and I'm grateful for that and I won't betray them."
After continuing to reference the faith his constituents have in him, Cimperman called Kucinich's latest presidential bid "egomaniacal."
"I think... people know that I'm a pretty intense person," he said. "I'm full-time, and I'm not going to run for president. I'm going to do what I need to do for the people in my district," he said. "I don't know of one job that's come here from Iowa. I don't know of one job that's come here from California or Hawaii, where Mr. Kucinich has been spending his time. And so, what was the presidential run all about? The first time, people understand it. You give it a shot, you get your message out there. Clearly he wanted a national platform. But after that, it's just an incredible waste of time and opportunity and [resources] and I just feel so strongly that our district can do better, and I know that I can do better."
He added: "We've had positive relationships in the past, and you know, I mean no harm to [Kucinich] personally, but I think he's just completely lost his ability to focus on what's real right now."