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CANDIDATES / DENNIS KUCINICH
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Name: Dennis J. Kucinich
Birth date: October 8, 1946
Education: Bachelor's degree, master's degree, Case Western Reserve University, 1973
Career: Municipal courts clerk, 1975-1977; radio talk show host, 1979, 1989; consultant, 1986-1994; television reporter, 1989-1992
Elected office Cleveland city councilman, 1969-1975, 1983-85; Cleveland mayor, 1977-79; Ohio state senator 1994-96; U.S. representative, elected 1996
Family: Two marriages ended in divorce; one daughter from second marriage
Quote: "This is a struggle for the soul of the Democratic Party, which in too many cases has become so corporate and identified with corporate interests that you can't tell the difference between Democrats and Republicans."
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Kucinich - Old-school Democrat, FDR-style

(CNN) - It's been a long, on and off, journey in the public spotlight since Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, -- at age 31 -- served as Cleveland's "wonder boy mayor." Now, 25 years later, he's making a bid for the country's top political post.

The populist Democrat, chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told CNN he hopes to reaffirm President Franklin D. Roosevelt's commitment "to make sure that government served the people, not the corporations."

He advocates a national health care system, the preservation of Social Security and higher unemployment benefits.

And he espouses pro-U.S. worker views in his strong objections to international trade pacts such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade -- maintaining they undermine domestic jobs. Unions like him.

Kucinich was an early bloomer, getting his start in politics when he was elected to Cleveland's City Council as a 23-year-old student.

The eldest of seven children, Kucinich lived in 21 places, "including a couple of cars," by his 17th birthday, according to his official campaign biography.

In 1967, he enrolled at Cleveland State University. Three years later he transferred to Case Western Reserve University and, that same year, won a city council seat.

After six years on the council and two years as a municipal courts clerk, the then-31-year-old was voted mayor of Cleveland, making him at the time the youngest person ever elected to lead a major American city.

As mayor, Kucinich faced a host of challenges in Cleveland City Hall, including pollution, poverty and a staggering debt.

The latter proved Kucinich's undoing. He refused area banks' demands that the city sell off its Municipal Electric System to a private company. The banks forced Cleveland into financial default. Later, it was discovered that the banks had financial interests in the private utility.

The decision later would be applauded. Nevertheless, in 1979, the young mayor lost his re-election bid to Republican George Voinovich.

Voinovich led the city out of its financial crisis and went on to serve as Ohio's governor and later, senator.

Kucinich, meanwhile, spent much of the next two decades trying to revive his political career while working as a teacher, consultant and television news reporter.

In 1994, after several unsuccessful attempts to win a U.S. House seat, Kucinich was elected to the Ohio Senate.

His campaign symbol was a light bulb, and his slogan -- "Because he was right!" In 1998, the Cleveland City Council issued him a commendation for "having the courage and foresight to refuse to sell the city's municipal electric system."

Two years later, he waged a tough battle with Republican Rep. Martin R. Hoke for the 10th District House seat. Kucinich overcame Hoke's negative portrayal of his mayoral days and earned a trip to Capitol Hill. He has been re-elected three times since.

Despite his recent flip-flop on abortion -- he consistently voted against abortion rights in Congress, then adopted a pro-choice stand earlier this year -- Kucinich quickly established himself as one of Washington's most unabashed liberals and vociferous GOP opponents.

He joined thousands of protesters during the World Trade Organization's meeting in Seattle, and later demonstrated in the streets of the nation's capital against International Monetary Fund policies. A vegan and long-time nuclear power critic, Kucinich also earned the respect of leading environmental groups and spoke out against genetically engineered foods.

Kucinich has made headlines for twice suing President George W. Bush -- once to bar the commander-in-chief from withdrawing from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and then challenging the president's power to order the invasion of Iraq. (He and his fellow plaintiffs lost both cases.)

But Kucinich also challenged his own party's president, joining 30 other House Democrats in fall 1998 to back an investigation of Democrat Bill Clinton.

If elected president, Kucinich has proposed major changes on the domestic and international fronts.

He has said he would cancel NAFTA and pledged to repeal the Patriot Act, the anti-terror legislation passed after the September 11, 2001, attacks that he says stifles basic liberties.

But perhaps his boldest initiatives play off his pacifist views. Kucinich has promised to end the GOP-backed missile defense (or "Star Wars") program and has proposed the creation of a Cabinet-level Department of Peace to promote nonviolence both at home and abroad.

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