Rep. Dennis Kucinich has been shopping around for a new congressional district as it appears increasingly likely that he will be drawn out of his Ohio district. And he may have found a new one -- in a state thousands of miles away.
The two-time Democratic presidential candidate with a progressive following has visited Washington state for several political events in recent months, including a recent appearance at a Seattle conference for progressive activists where his call to bring home U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan won applause.
The eight-term congressman said he hopes to make more visits in the coming months, whether Democrats in Washington welcome him or not.
"It's certainly no secret I've been out to the Seattle area many times since the beginning of the year," Kucinich told The Associated Press. "Each time I've gone out there it's by invitation. As long as the invitations keep coming, I'll do my best to try to accommodate them."
Judith Shattuck, a longtime Kucinich supporter and chairwoman of the Washington State Progressive Caucus, said Kucinich can count on a devoted band of supporters across the state.
"There is a real solid core of progressives in the state of Washington who support Dennis wholeheartedly," Shattuck said. "If he were to choose to run here, these progressives from across the state would be in that district working for him every day, working hard."
But the state Democratic chairman said Kucinich's wooing of Washington voters is unseemly and could end up costing the state Democratic seats.
"It is inappropriate for a sitting congressman from Cleveland to try to run for Congress in Washington state," said Chairman Dwight Pelz. "It's sort of ethically tainted .... Democrats aren't excited about him running here."
Pelz said the two open seats Kucinich is considering _ a new one created by the state's own redistricting and an open seat to replace Rep. Jay Inslee who is running for governor _ will be in competitive districts that lean Democratic.
"These are districts Democrats should win, but I think Dennis Kucinich could lose either one of them," he said.
Kucinich said it's too early to decide where he will run, but he's "looking forward" to returning to the state.
Washington's generous ballot access laws could make things easier for Kucinich.
To run, Kucinich would only have to move to the state and register to vote sometime before next spring's filing deadline for congressional candidates. Washington does not require candidates to collect voter signatures or live in the state for a certain period of time in order to qualify for the ballot.
"You can move right in and declare for office," said David Ammons, spokesman for Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed.
That means Kucinich could campaign for several months in Washington before having to officially file as a candidate and lose his Ohio seat.
While still serving as an Ohio congressman, Kucinich could campaign in Washington state as an unofficial candidate once the new district lines are set. That will probably be around the start of next year. He could keep his Ohio seat until Washington state's May 18 candidate filing deadline. The state's primary is Aug. 7.
Kucinich said he probably won't decide until district lines are set at the beginning of next year.
"Congress might be a national office, but you run in a district and the districts haven't been created," he said. "I'm not really at liberty to describe a candidacy running somewhere when the districts haven't been created."
Over the years, Kucinich has earned a reputation as a maverick with strong anti-war views and a quirky streak. He's called for a "Department of Peace." He wanted to impeach former Vice President Dick Cheney, an effort opposed by House Democratic leaders.
He recently pushed for a House amendment that would have barred funds for the U.S. operation against Libya, but it failed.
In a lighter moment, Kucinich enlivened a 2007 presidential debate when he confirmed seeing an unidentified flying object at the Washington state home of actress Shirley MacLaine. With a smile, he said he would open a campaign office in Roswell, N.M., home to many alleged UFO sightings.
Kucinich pursued the Democratic nomination for president in 2004 and 2008. He has deep roots in his hometown of Cleveland, where he was dubbed the "boy mayor" after being elected at age 31.
Kirby Wilbur, GOP chairman in Washington state, joked that Republicans would be happy to take up a collection to pay for Kucinich's air fare to come out and run.
"I pray every night and light candles for him to come out here," Wilbur said. "He's so far left and so far out there and so beatable."