While the primary challenge for Dennis Kucinich will not materialize, another challenge for a particular bete noire in the health care debate already has:

WASHINGTON – Michigan’s Bart Stupak, a Democratic congressman who could help bring down health care reform over an abortion provision, is getting a primary challenge this year.

Connie Saltonstall of Charlevoix said today she plans to run against Stupak for the Democratic nomination of Michigan’s First Congressional District, citing Stupak’s efforts to stop health care reform if it doesn’t ban use of government money for abortions. Stupak, a former state trooper from Menominee, has held the seat since 1993.

This year and last, Stupak has made a name for himself as a thorn in the side of some congressional Democrats pushing legislation for health care reform. While largely supportive of those efforts, he successfully attached an amendment last fall to ban use of federal funds to help pay for abortions.

“I believe that he has a right to his personal, religious views, but to deprive his constituents of needed health care reform because of those views is reprehensible,” Saltonstall said in a statement.

I actually get the sense that Stupak is losing some steam. The national media has begun to fact-check his claims about abortion funding, finding that they have little merit. The Senate bill simply does not directly subsidize abortions; in fact, it’s practically as restrictive as his own amendment. Stupak’s drive for his own language reflects personal vanity and a lust for power, more than anything. And he’s started to lose members of his coalition – fellow Michigander Dale Kildee backed off and now will vote for the bill (I’ll update the whip count later):

Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Mich.), a key supporter of Rep. Bart Stupak’s (D-Mich.) anti-abortion language intended for the health care bill, said Tuesday night that he’s satisfied the Senate abortion language prohibits federal funding of abortions and will likely vote for the bill.

“I think the Senate language keeps the purpose of the Hyde amendment,” Kildee told reporters. “I’ll probably vote for it.”

The primary challenge could squeeze Stupak even more, but the likeliest option would be to find the votes without him. I don’t know if that’s possible, but Kildee’s switched.

If “The Left” wants to really go after someone who’s done more than anybody to stop health care reform from passage, they’d start working for Connie Saltonstall. She’s a former county commissioner with electoral experience. And what’s more, she can pressure the actual source of the problem in the health care debate.