by Pia K. Hansen

Dennis Kucinich is not only completely opposed to George W. Bush in virtually all matters of policy and ethics; their backgrounds are polar opposites as well. George Jr. is from a rich Texas family that made its wealth on oil and foreign connections; he's the son of a U.S. president and has had at his disposal an abundance of money, fame, education and opportunity all his life.

Born in 1946, Kucinich was the eldest of seven children in a Catholic family in Cleveland. By the time Kucinich was 17 years old, he'd lived in 21 places -- including a few cars during hard times.

Kucinich received his B.A. and M.A. the same year, in 1973, at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Five years later he was a consultant, later he became a president of a marketing and communications firm and a teacher. But he is best known for his political career, which took off before he even he graduated from college.

From 1969-73, Kucinich sat on Cleveland's city council. He sought a U.S. Representative seat as an Independent in 1974. He was a Democratic candidate for Congress in 1972, 1988 and 1992. In 1977, when he was only 31, he was elected mayor of Cleveland -- the youngest person ever to be the mayor of a major U.S. city. He served as mayor for only two years before a major political decision threw him out of public favor and ended his chances of re-election. Yet that same decision signified the beginning of his defiantly progressive political future.

A year into Kucinich's first term as Cleveland's mayor, the city's banks demanded that he sell the city's 70-year-old municipally owned electric system to a private competitor (a deal the banks would benefit from). Kucinich refused. It was a brave move, but one he wasn't immediately thanked for. Instead, the banks threw the city into default for $15 million, and Kucinich lost his re-election bid.

Fifteen years later, Kucinich was vindicated, winning a race for a seat in the Ohio Senate. He campaigned on expanding Cleveland's light system, which provides low-cost power to residents.

Kucinich is divorced and has one child. Since 1996, Kucinich has been a U.S. Representative.

In His Own Words -- "It's time for America to resume its glorious journey. Time to reject shrinking jobs and wages, disappearing savings and rights. Time to reject the detour towards fear and greed. Time to look out upon the world for friends, not enemies. Time to counter the control of corporations over our politics, our economy, our resources and mass media. Time for those who have much to help those who have little by maintaining a progressive tax structure. Time to tell the world that we wish to be their partner in peace, not their leader in war. Most of all, it is time for America to again be the land where dreams come true because the government is on the side of its people."

Bush-bashing -- "The [Bush] administration lied to the American people. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, nor did Iraq have weapons of mass destruction, which they intended to use against this country. It was wrong to go into Iraq and it is wrong to stay there."

Position/Strategy -- Kucinich is kind of like Jimmy Carter: soft and humble, a true believer in humanity. Those who refuse to compromise their liberal ethics are standing by Kucinich, who has a proven record of making tough ethical moves that pay off in the end. Critics say Kucinich's progressiveness alienates most politicians and his "peace, love and happiness" routine gets lost in translation on Capitol Hill.

In the caucuses and primaries, Kucinich, along with Rev. Al Sharpton, is trailing badly. Both men are staying in the race, it appears, more to keep their message in public view than out of any realistic desire to be nominated. But Kucinich has numerous supporters in Washington state, where he finished third in the caucuses. The Kucinich campaign has raised more than $6 million and spent just over half that.

Publication date: 02/12/04

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