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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 December, 2003, 11:30 GMT
Profile: Dennis Kucinich
Dennis J. Kucinich
Kucinich has an almost cult-like following
Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich is regarded as one of the most liberal candidates for the Democrat nomination for 2004's presidential election.

Few people expect him to win but he has gained widespread grassroots support across America.

An anti-war campaigner, he says he would withdraw troops from Iraq upon taking office and would channel part of the defence budget into childcare for all three to five-year-olds.

KEY FACTS
Born 8 October, 1946 in Ohio
Became Cleveland's mayor at age 31
A vegan and Catholic
Anti-war campaigner
Won a House seat in 1996
He would also repeal the anti-terrorism legislation, known as the Patriot Act, which he maintains has taken away civil liberties, and would also establish a Peace Department.

His campaign calls for a universal healthcare system to provide dental care, prescription drugs and long-term care.

He is against the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) and other international free trade accords that he says are costing Americans jobs.

Bankrupt city

Entering local politics at an early age, Mr Kucinich became Cleveland's mayor at age 31 - the nation's youngest mayor of a major city.

Dennis Kucinich, while serving as Cleveland's mayor
The young mayor of Cleveland
During office, he presided over the first bankruptcy of a city since the Depression, after he refused to sell the municipal power company to a private enterprise which left Cleveland unable to pay a $14m debt.

The police walked out after a disagreement with the young mayor, while the 21-year-old assistant director of public safety he appointed was the subject of much comment.

Forced to wear a bullet-proof vest due to death threats, he was not re-elected, but local leaders later said his refusal to sell the power utility saved residents vast sums of money.

Come back

A son of a truck driver, Mr Kucinich came from humble beginnings, living in 21 different addresses, "including a couple of cars", by the time he was 17.

With assets registered at less than $32,000, he is one of Congress's least affluent members and proud of it. "I know the territory," he says on inner-city poverty.

KUCINICH IN QUOTES
It is time to bring the troops home [from Iraq]. It is time to bring the UN in and get the US out
I am running for president... to enable the goddess of peace to encircle within her arms all the children of this country
As a bachelor I get to fantasise about my first lady... I would certainly want a dynamic, outspoken woman who was fearless in her desire for peace in the world
As a teenager he worked at the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper and by age 23 he was voted onto the Cleveland City Council.

He moved to California after failing to be re-elected as mayor to write a never-published autobiography and later spent time in Alaska, Oregon, Washington and New Mexico.

He made a comeback in the 1990s, first winning a seat in the Senate and then in 1996 securing a House seat.

But he was plucked from obscurity after a prayer he read at a Los Angeles meeting which said the nation had lost its way since the 11 September attacks was circulated on the internet.

Speaking invitations came in from organisations across the country, and thousands of people sent e-mails urging him to stand for president.

Mr Kucinich's election funds are modest. He has adopted a personal approach to campaigning, trying to meet as many people as possible.




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