THE BLOG
05/13/2011 11:30 am ET Updated Jul 13, 2011

Dennis Kucinich's Washington State Reelection Scheme Would Make U.S. History

Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich's recently hatched plan to explore a run for Congress in 2012 from Washington State would, if successfully executed, accomplish something never previously achieved in American political history.

A review of records from the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress finds that no U.S. Representative has won reelection to the House in back-to-back cycles after moving to a different state over the institution's 222 years.

Kucinich is reportedly weighing a run outside of Ohio if the eight-term Representative loses a substantial portion of his 10th CD constituents during redistricting. (Ohio's congressional district map will look quite different in 2012 with two of its 18 seats eliminated from reapportionment after the 2010 Census).

Just 15 representatives in U.S. history have moved to another state to be eventually elected once again to the nation's lower legislative chamber in a new delegation.

(Another six Representatives have technically been elected to the House from two different states, but did not need to move to do so: three from Massachusetts to Maine when it was separated from the Bay State as part of the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and three from Virginia to West Virginia when that region broke off during the Civil War in 1863).

The most famous alumnus of this exclusive class is 19th Century statesman Daniel Webster. Webster first served in the House from New Hampshire, as its at-large representative from 1813-1817. After two terms, Webster did not seek reelection in 1816 and moved to Boston, where in 1822 he was elected to Massachusetts' 1st CD and served for another two terms.

But what was an unusual practice in the 19th Century of a U.S. Representative getting elected to the House from two different states over the course of a political career became a rarity during the 20th Century, with 12 of these 15 cases taking place before the 1900s.

The last U.S. Representative to get elected to the House from two states was Republican Ed Foreman, who did so more than 40 years ago.

Foreman was first elected from Texas' 16th CD in 1962, but was defeated during the Democratic landslide of 1964. Foreman then ran for Congress from New Mexico four years later in 1968, winning the state's newly created 2nd CD.

Making Kucinich's potential reelection bid even more problematic is the fact that what he is potentially eying to do in back-to-back cycles has taken an average of 12 years for the 15 previous U.S. Representatives who moved, resettled, and built up enough political capital to run again and win a House seat in their new state.

In fact, it took four representatives 20 or more years to find their way back to the U.S. House after moving to a new state.

The shortest gap in service for a House member between two states - and the record Kucinich would be trying to break - is held by Matthew Lyon, who served more than 200 years ago.

Lyon represented Vermont's 1st CD from 1797 to 1801 before losing his 1800 reelection bid. Lyon then moved to Kentucky and was elected to the U.S. House two years later in 1802.

But with just three successful case studies over the last 110 years, why is Dennis Kucinich even contemplating such a bizarre reelection scheme?

Even though history suggests, at first blush, it might appear the congressman's best chances would be to run for the House in even a radically different district in Ohio, there is definitely a method to Kucinich's madness.

First, although he is not quite a household name, Kucinich's two presidential election bids in 2004 and 2008 have made him one of the more recognizable names and faces in the U.S. House across the country - particularly on the Democratic side of the aisle.

Second, during the Ohio congressman's 2008 presidential election bid, Kucinich raised more in large donor individual contributions from Washington residents ($99,992) than any other state in the nation with the exception of California ($617,779) and New York ($121,281).

Overall, the State of Washington ranked 5th for Kucinich in per capita large donor funding behind only New Hampshire, Hawaii, Oregon, and California.

And there is this nugget: Kucinich raised 63 percent more money in large donor contributions from residents of Washington than from his home state of Ohio ($61,204) during that presidential campaign.

So for now, the question remains: does Dennis Kucinich fancy himself a 21st Century Daniel Webster?

Dr. Eric Ostermeier is a Research Associate at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs and the author of its non-partisan political news site Smart Politics. He blogs at Smart Politics.