After a half-century of political surprises, Dennis Kucinich’s political career comes to an end -Brent Larkin Sept 15, 2021

by Brent Larkin

CLEVELAND — Dennis Kucinich’s career in elected life ended the way it began 54 years earlier – with a loss.

Facts must matter, as Cleveland political history shows by Brent Larkin, 12/31/2019

“Facts must matter, as Cleveland political history shows”
by Brent Larkin, 12/31/2019

“Facts must matter. The news media has no obligation to spread lies merely in the interest of so-called balance. First, foremost and always, its obligation is to the truth.”
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Dennis Kucinich from Wikipedia

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Dennis Kucinich

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Dennis Kucinich
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Ohio‘s 10th district
In office
January 3, 1997 – January 3, 2013
Preceded by Martin Hoke
Succeeded by Mike Turner
Member of the Ohio Senate
from the 23rd district
In office
January 3, 1995 – January 2, 1997
Preceded by Anthony Sinagra
Succeeded by Patrick Sweeney
53rd Mayor of Cleveland
In office
January 26, 1978 – November 6, 1979
Preceded by Ralph J. Perk
Succeeded by George Voinovich
Personal details
Born Dennis John Kucinich
October 8, 1946 (age 66)
Cleveland, Ohio
Nationality American
Political party Democratic Party
Spouse(s) Helen Kucinich (divorced)
Sandra Lee McCarthy (1977–1986; divorced)
Elizabeth Kucinich (2005–present)
Children Jackie Kucinich
Residence Cleveland, Ohio
Alma mater Cleveland State University
Case Western Reserve University
Religion Roman Catholic

Dennis John Kucinich (/kˈsɪnɪ/; born October 8, 1946) was a U.S. Representative, serving from 1997 to 2013. He was also a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States in the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections.[1]

He was a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

From 1977 to 1979, Kucinich served as the 53rd mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, a tumultuous term in which he survived a recall election and was successful in a battle against selling the municipal electric utility before being defeated for reelection by George Voinovich.

Through his various governmental positions and campaigns, Kucinich attracted attention for consistently delivering “the strongest liberal” perspective.[2] This perspective has been shown by his actions, such as bringing articles of impeachment against President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, and being the only Democratic candidate in the 2008 election to have voted against invading Iraq,[3] although eventual nominee Barack Obama had also opposed the Iraq War at the time it was started, even though he had not been in Congress at the time.

Because of redistricting following the 2010 state elections, Ohio’s 9th congressional district absorbed part ofCuyahoga County, abolishing Kucinich’s district and pitted him against 9th district incumbent Marcy Kaptur in the 2012 Democratic primary, which he lost.[4][5][6][7][8] After serving out the rest of his term, it was announced in mid-January 2013 that the former congressman would become a political analyst and regular contributor on the Fox News Channel, appearing on programs such as The O’Reilly Factor.[9]



Personal life

Dennis and Elizabeth Kucinich in 2008

Kucinich was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on October 8, 1946, as the eldest of the seven children of Virginia (née Norris) and Frank J. Kucinich.[10][11] His father, a truck driver, was of Croat ancestry; his Irish American mother was ahomemaker.[12] Growing up, his family moved 21 times and Dennis was often charged with the responsibility of finding apartments they could afford.[13]

He attended Cleveland State University from 1967 to 1970.[14] In 1973, he graduated from Case Western Reserve University with both a Bachelor and a Master of Arts degree in speech and communication.[15] Kucinich was baptized aRoman Catholic.[14] Kucinich married Sandra Lee McCarthy in 1977; they had a daughter named Jackie in 1981 and divorced in 1986.[16] He married his third wife, Elizabeth Harper, a British citizen, on August 21, 2005. The two met while Harper was working as an assistant for the Chicago-based American Monetary Institute, which brought her to Kucinich’s House of Representatives office for a meeting.[17]

Kucinich was raised with four brothers, Larry, Frank, Gary and Perry; and two sisters, Theresa and Beth Ann. On December 19, 2007, Perry Kucinich, the youngest brother, was found dead in his apartment.[18][19][20] On November 11, 2008, his youngest sister, Beth Ann Kucinich, also died.[21]

In 2011, he sued a Capitol Hill cafeteria for damages after a 2008 incident in which he claimed to have suffered a severe injury when he bit into a sandwich and broke a tooth on an olive pit. The tooth broke and became infected. Complications led to three surgeries for dental work. The law suit, which had claimed $150,000 in punitive damages, was settled with the defendant agreeing to pay for the representative’s costs.[22]

On January 16, 2013, Kucinich joined Fox News Channel as a regular contributor.[23]

Early career

Kucinich’s political career began early. After running unsuccessfully in 1967, Kucinich was elected to the Cleveland City Council in 1969 at the age of twenty-three.[12] In 1972, Kucinich ran for a seat in the United States House of Representatives, losing narrowly to incumbent Republican William E. Minshall, Jr. After Minshall’s retirement in 1974 Kucinich sought the seat again, this time failing to get the Democratic nomination, which instead went to Ronald M. Mottl. Kucinich ran as an Independent candidate in the general election, placing third with about 30% of the vote. In 1975, Kucinich became clerk of the municipal court in Cleveland and served in that position for two years.[24]

Cleveland mayoralty

Kucinich was elected Mayor of Cleveland in 1977 and served in that position until 1979.[25] At thirty-one years of age, he was the youngest mayor of a major city in the United States,[12] earning him the nickname “the boy mayor of Cleveland”.[26] Kucinich’s tenure as mayor is often regarded as one of the most tumultuous in Cleveland’s history.[26][27] After Kucinich refused to sell Muni Light, Cleveland’s publicly owned electric utility, the Cleveland mafia put out a hit on Kucinich. A hit man from Maryland planned to shoot him in the head during the Columbus Day Parade, but the plot fell apart when Kucinich was hospitalized and missed the event. When the city fell into default shortly thereafter, the mafia leaders called off the contract killer.[28]

Specifically, it was the Cleveland Trust Company that suddenly required all of the city’s debts be paid in full, which forced the city into default, after news of Kucinich’s refusal to sell the city utility. For years, these debts were routinely rolled over, pending future payment, until Kucinich’s announcement was made public. In 1998 the Cleveland City Council honored him for having had the “courage and foresight” to stand up to the banks, which saved the city an estimated $195 million between 1985 and 1995.[29]


After losing his re-election bid for Mayor to George Voinovich in 1979, Kucinich initially kept a low profile in Cleveland politics. He criticized a tax referendumproposed by Voinovich in 1980, which voters eventually approved. He also struggled to find employment and moved to Los AngelesCalifornia, where he stayed with a friend, actress Shirley MacLaine.[30] During the next three years, Kucinich worked as a radio talk-show host, lecturer, and consultant.[14] It was a difficult period for Kucinich financially. Without a steady paycheck, Kucinich fell behind in his mortgage payments, nearly lost his house in Cleveland, and ended up borrowing money from friends, including MacLaine, to keep it.[30] On his 1982 income tax return, Kucinich reported an income of $38.[30] When discussing this period, Kucinich stated, “When I was growing up in Cleveland, my early experience conditioned me to hang in there and not to quit… It’s one thing to experience that as a child, but when you have to as an adult, it has a way to remind you how difficult things can be. You understand what people go through.”[30]

In 1982, Kucinich moved back to Cleveland and ran for Secretary of State; however, he lost the Democratic primary to Sherrod Brown.[30] In 1983, Kucinich won aspecial election to fill the seat of a Cleveland city councilman who had died.[31] His brother, Gary Kucinich, was also a councilman at the time.

In 1985, there was some speculation that Kucinich might run for mayor again. Instead, his brother Gary ran against (and lost to) the incumbent Voinovich. Kucinich, meanwhile, gave up his council position to run for Governor of Ohio as an independent against Richard Celeste, but later withdrew from the race.[31]After this, Kucinich, in his own words “on a quest for meaning,” lived quietly in New Mexico until 1994, when he won a seat in the Ohio State Senate.[31]

House of Representatives

In 1996, Kucinich was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, representing the 10th district of Ohio. He defeated two-term Republican incumbent Martin Hoke by three percentage points. However, he has never faced another contest nearly that close, and has since been re-elected six times.[32]

Committee assignments

Domestic policy voting record

Kucinich outside the Capitol in June 2007

Kucinich helped introduce and is one of 93 cosponsors (as of Feb. 22, 2010) in the House of Representatives of theUnited States National Health Care Act or HR 676 proposed by Rep. John Conyers in 2003,[33] which provides for a universal single-payer public health-insurance plan.

In 2008, Kucinich introduced articles of impeachment in the House of Representatives against President George W. Bush for the invasion and occupation of Iraq.[34]

Although his voting record is not always in line with that of the Democratic Party, on March 17, 2010, after being courted by President Barack Obama, his wife and others, he reluctantly agreed to vote with his colleagues for the Healthcare Bill without a public option component.[35]

Kucinich voted against the USA PATRIOT Act, against the Military Commissions Act of 2006,[36] and was one of six who voted against the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Act.[37] He also voted for authorizing and directing the Committee on the Judiciary to investigate whether sufficient grounds existed for the impeachment of Bill Clinton.[38]

Kucinich criticized the flag-burning amendment and voted against the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. His congressional voting record has leaned strongly toward a pro-life stance, although he noted that he has never supported a constitutional amendment prohibiting abortion altogether. In 2003, however, he began describing himself as pro-choiceand said he had shifted away from his earlier position on the issue.[39] Press releases have indicated that he is pro-choice and supports ending the abstinence-only policy of sex education and increasing the use of contraception to make abortion “less necessary” over time. His voting record since 2003 has reflected mixed ratings from abortion rights groups.[40]

He has criticized Diebold Election Systems (now Premier Election Solutions) for promoting voting machines that fail to leave a traceable paper trail.[41] He was one of the thirty-one who voted in the House to not count the electoral votes from Ohio in the United States presidential election, 2004.[42]

Foreign policy record

An earlier Congressional photo of Kucinich

Kucinich has criticized the foreign policy of President Bush, including the 2003 invasion of Iraq and what he perceives as growing American hostility towards Iran. He has always voted against funding it. In 2005, he voted against the Iran Freedom and Support Act, calling it a “stepping stone to war”.[43] He also signed a letter of solidarity with Hugo Chávez in Venezuelain 2004.[44]

He advocates the abolition of all nuclear weapons, calling on the United States to be the leader in multilateral disarmament.[45] Kucinich has also strongly opposed space-based weapons and has sponsored legislation, HR 2977, banning the deployment and use of space-based weapons.[46]

Kucinich advocates US withdrawal from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) because, in his view, it causes the loss of more American jobs than it creates, and does not provide adequate protections for worker rights and safety and environmental safeguards. He is against the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) for the same reason.[47]

Kucinich is also in favor of increased dialog with Iran in order to avoid a militaristic confrontation at all costs. He expressed such sentiments at an American Iranian Council conference in New Brunswick, New Jersey which included Chuck Hagel,Javad ZarifNicholas Kristof, and Anders Liden to discuss Iranian-American relations, and potential ways to increase dialog in order to avoid conflict.[48]

He believes the US should move aggressively to reduce emissions that cause climate change because of global warming[49] and should ratify the Kyoto Protocol, a major international agreement signed by over 160 countries to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by each signatory.[50]

Kucinich and Ron Paul are the only two congressional representatives who voted[51] against the RothmanKirk Resolution,[52] which calls on the United Nations to charge Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with violating the genocide convention of the United Nations Charter based on statements that he has made. Kucinich defended his vote by saying that Ahmadinejad’s statements could be translated to mean that he wants a regime change in Israel, not death to its people and supporters, and that the resolution is an attempt to beat “the war drum to build support for a US attack on Iran.”[53] In October 2009, Kucinich and Ron Paul were the only two congressional representatives to vote against H.Res.175 condemning the government of Iran for “state-sponsored persecution of its Bahá’í minority and its continued violation of the International Covenants on Human Rights.”

On January 9, 2009, Kucinich was one of the dissenters in a 390-5 vote with 22 abstentions for a resolution recognizing Israel‘s “right to defend itself [againstHamas rocket attacks]” and reaffirming the U.S.’s support for Israel. The other 4 “no” votes were Gwen Moore of Wisconsin, Maxine Waters of California, Nick Rahall of West Virginia, and Ron Paul of Texas.[54]

Kucinich is the only congressional representative to vote against[55] the symbolic “9/11 Commemoration” resolution.[56] In a press statement[57] he defended his vote by saying that the bill did not make reference to “the lies that took us into Iraq, the lies that keep us there, the lies that are being used to set the stage for war against Iran and the lies that have undermined our basic civil liberties here at home.”

In a visit to the rest of the Middle East in September 2007, Kucinich said he did not visit Iraq because “I feel the United States is engaging in an illegal occupation.”[58] Kucinich was criticized for his visit to Syria and praise of the President Bashar al-Assad on Syria’s national TV.[59] He praised Syria for taking in Iraqi refugees. “What most people are not aware of is that Syria has taken in more than 1.5 million Iraqi refugees,” Kucinich said. “The Syrian government has actually shown a lot of compassion in keeping its doors open, and being a host for so many refugees.”[60]

Despite Kucinich’s committed opposition to the war in Iraq, in the days after the September 11, 2001 attacks he did vote to authorize President Bush broad war making powers,[61] the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists. The Authorization was used by the Bush Administration in its justification for suspension of habeas corpus in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and its wiretapping of American citizens under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Kucinich voted along with 419 of his House colleagues in favor of this resolution, while only one Congresswoman opposed, Representative Barbara Lee.

In March 2010, the House rejected a Kucinich resolution regarding the War in Afghanistan by a vote of 356–65.[62] The resolution would have required the Obama administration to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year.[63][64] Kucinich reportedly based the resolution on the War Powers Resolution of 1973.[63]

In March 2011, Kucinich criticized the Obama administration’s decision to participate in the UN intervention in Libya without Congressional authorization. He also called it an “indisputable fact” that President Obama’s decision is an impeachable offense since he believes the U.S. Constitution “does not provide for the president to wage war any times he pleases,” although he has not yet introduced a resolution to impeach Obama.[65] In response, Libyan officials invited Kucinich to visit that country on a “peace mission”, but he declined, stating that he “could not negotiate on behalf of the administration.”[66]

2004 Presidential campaign

Kucinich speaks out against the occupation of Iraq at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

Kucinich was criticized during his 2004 campaign for changing his stance on the issue of abortion.[39] His explanation was “I’ve always worked to make abortions less necessary, through sex education and birth control. But the direction that Congress has taken, increasingly, is to make it impossible for women to be able to have an abortion if they need to protect their health. So when I saw the direction taken, it finally came to the point where I understood that women will not be truly free unless they have the right to choose.”[67]

Ralph Nader praised Kucinich as “a genuine progressive”,[citation needed] and most Greens were friendly to Kucinich’s campaign, some going so far as to indicate that they would not have run against him had he won the Democratic nomination. However, Kucinich was unable to carry any states in the 2004 Democratic Primaries, and John Kerry eventually won the Democratic nomination at the Democratic National Convention.

Press coverage

On December 10, 2003, the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) announced the removal of its correspondents from the campaigns of Kucinich, Carol Moseley Braun and Al Sharpton.[68]

The announcement came one day after a Democratic presidential debate hosted by ABC News’ Ted Koppel, in which Koppel asked whether the candidacies of Kucinich, Moseley Braun and Sharpton were merely “vanity campaigns”, and Koppel and Kucinich exchanged uncomfortable dialog.[69]

Kucinich, previously critical of the limited coverage given his campaign, characterized ABC’s decision as an example of media companies’ power to shape campaigns by choosing which candidates to cover and questioned its timing, coming immediately after the debate.[68]

ABC News, while stating its commitment to give coverage to a wide range of candidates, argued that focusing more of its “finite resources” on those candidates most likely to win would best serve the public debate.[69]

Polls and primaries

In the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination race, national polls consistently showed Kucinich’s support in single digits, but rising, especially as Howard Deanlost some support among peace activists for refusing to commit to cutting the Pentagon budget. Though he was not viewed as a viable contender by most, there were differing polls on Kucinich’s popularity.

He placed second in‘s primary, behind Dean. He also placed first in other polls, particularly Internet-based ones. This led many activists to believe that his showing in the primaries might be better than what Gallup polls had been saying. However, in the non-binding Washington, D.C. primary, Kucinich finished fourth (last out of candidates listed on the ballot), with only 8% of the vote. Support for Kucinich was most prevalent in the caucuses around the country.

In the Iowa caucuses, he finished fifth, receiving about 1% of the state delegates from Iowa; far below the 15% threshold for receiving national delegates. He performed similarly in the New Hampshire primary, placing sixth among the seven candidates with 1% of the vote. In the Mini-Tuesday primaries, he finished near the bottom in most states, with his best performance in New Mexico where he received less than 6% of the vote, and still no delegates. Kucinich’s best showing in any Democratic contest was in the February 24 Hawaii caucus, in which he won 31% of caucus participants, coming in second place to Senator John Kerry ofMassachusetts and winning Maui County, the only county won by Kucinich in either of his presidential campaigns. He also saw a double-digit showing in Maine on February 8, where he got 16% percent in that state’s caucus.

On Super Tuesday, March 2, Kucinich gained another strong showing with the Minnesota caucus, where 17% of the ballots went to him. In his home state of Ohio, he gained 9% in the primary.

Kucinich campaigned heavily in Oregon, spending 30 days there during the two months leading up to the state’s May 18 primary. He continued his campaign because “the future direction of the Democratic Party has not yet been determined”[70] and chose to focus on Oregon “because of its progressive tradition and its pioneering spirit.”[71] He won 16% of the vote.

Even after Kerry won enough delegates to secure the nomination, Kucinich continued to campaign until just before the convention, citing an effort to help shape the agenda of the Democratic Party. He was the last candidate to end his campaign. He endorsed Kerry on July 22, four days before the start of the Democratic National Convention.[72]

2008 Presidential campaign

Kucinich speaking on the campaign trail, January 2007.

On December 11, 2006 in a speech delivered at Cleveland City Hall, Kucinich announced he would seek the nomination of the Democratic Party for President in 2008. His platform[73] for 2008 included:

Kucinich described his stance on the issues as mainstream.[74]

Kucinich told his supporters in Iowa that if he did not appear on the second ballot in any caucus that they should back Barack Obama:

“I hope Iowans will caucus for me as their first choice … because of my singular positions on the war, on health care and trade,” Kucinich said. “But in those caucus locations where my support doesn’t reach the necessary threshold, I strongly encourage all of my supporters to make Barack Obama their second choice.”[75][76]

At a debate of Democratic presidential candidates in Philadelphia on October 30, 2007, NBC‘s Tim Russert cited a passage from a book by Shirley MacLaine in which the author writes that Kucinich had seen a UFO from her home in Washington State. Russert asked if MacLaine’s assertion was true. Kucinich confirmed and emphasized that he merely meant he had seen an unidentified flying object, just as former US president Jimmy Carter has.[77] Russert then cited a statistic that 14% of Americans say they have witnessed a UFO.[77]

On November 16, 2007, Larry Flynt hosted a fundraiser for Kucinich at the Los Angeles-based HustlerLFP headquarters, attended by Kucinich and his wife, which has drawn criticism from Flynt’s detractors. Attendees included such notables as Edward NortonWoody HarrelsonSean PennRobin Wright PennMelissa EtheridgeTammy EtheridgeStephen Stills, Kristen Stills, Frances Fisher, and Esai Morales. Campaign representatives declined to comment.[78][79]

In December 2007, author Gore Vidal endorsed Kucinich for president.[80]

Kucinich’s 2008 presidential campaign was advised by a steering committee including Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) Founder Steve Cobble, long-time Kucinich press secretary Andy Junewicz, former RFK, McCarthy, Humphrey, McGovern and Carter political consultant Michael Carmichael, former Carter Fundraiser Marcus Brandon, Ani DiFranco Tour Manager Susan Alzner, West Point Graduate and former Army Captain Mike Klein, former Communications Director of Democrats Abroad Sharon Manitta and New Jersey-based political consultant Vin Gopal. The campaign was seen as a platform to push progressive issues into the Democratic Party, including a not-for-profit health care system, same-sex marriage, increasing the minimum wage, opposing capital punishment, and impeachment.

On Monday, January 7, 2008 actor Viggo Mortensen endorsed Kucinich’s presidential campaign in New Hampshire.[81] On Thursday, January 10, 2008, Kucinich asked for a New Hampshire recount based on discrepancies between the machine-counted ballots and the hand-counted ballots. He stated that he wanted to make sure “100% of the voters had 100% of their votes counted.”[82]

On Tuesday, January 15, 2008, Kucinich was “disinvited” from a Democratic presidential debate on MSNBC. A ruling that the debate could not go ahead without Kucinich was overturned on appeal.[83] Kucinich later responded to the questions posed in the MSNBC debate in a show hosted by Democracy Now![84]

Kucinich dropped his bid for the Democratic nomination on Thursday, January 24, 2008, and did not endorse any other candidate. He later endorsed Barack Obama after he had won the nomination.[85][86] On Friday, January 25, 2008, he made a formal announcement of the end of his campaign for president and his focus on reelection to Congress.[87]

Kucinich gestures to the audience following his speech on the second day of the 2008 Democratic National Convention in DenverColorado.

On August 27, 2008, he delivered a widely publicized speech at the Democratic National Convention.[88]

Congressional campaigns

Until 2012, Kucinich had always been reelected to Congress by sound margins in his strongly Democratic-leaning districts, and had up until this election far won primary challenges against him for the Democratic nomination convincingly.


Kucinich defeated another Democratic primary challenger by a wide margin and defeated Republican Mike Dovilla in the general election with 66% of the vote.


His opponents included Cleveland City Councilman Joe Cimperman and North Olmsted Mayor Thomas O’Grady. In February 2008 Kucinich raised around $50,000 compared to Cimperman’s $228,000,[89] but through a YouTube money raising campaign he managed to raise $700,000, surpassing Cimperman’s $487,000.[90][91]

Cimperman, who was endorsed by the Mayor of Cleveland and The Plain Dealer, criticized Kucinich for focusing too much on campaigning for president and not on the district. Kucinich accused Cimperman of representing corporate and real estate interests. Cimperman described Kucinich as an absentee congressman who failed to pass any major legislative initiatives in his 12-year House career. In an interview, Cimperman said he was tired of Kucinich and Cleveland being joke fodder for late-night talk-show hosts, saying “It’s time for him to go home.”[92][93] An ad paid for by Cimperman’s campaign stated that Kucinich has missed over 300 votes, but by checking the ad’s source, the actual number was 139.[94] However, Kucinich is well known for his constituency service.[95]

A report suggested that representatives of Nancy Pelosi and American Israel Public Affairs Committee would “guarantee” Kucinich’s re-election if he dropped his bid to impeach Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, though Kucinich denies the meeting happened.[96][97] It was also suggested that Kucinich’s calls for universal health care and an immediate withdrawal from Iraq made him a thorn in the side of the Democrats’ congressional leadership, as well as his refusal to pledge to support the eventual presidential nominee, which he later reconsidered.[92]

Kucinich took part in a debate with the other primary challengers. Barbara Ferris criticized him for not bringing as much money back to the district as other area legislators and authoring just one bill that passed during his 12 years in Congress. Kucinich responded “It was a Republican Congress and there weren’t many Democrats passing meaningful legislation during a Republican Congress.”[98]

Kucinich won the primary, receiving 68,156 votes out of 135,589 cast to beat Cimperman 52% to 33%.[99]

Kucinich defeated former State Representative Jim Trakas in the November 4, 2008 general election with 153,357 votes, 56.8% of those cast.


Kucinich defeated Republican nominee Peter J. Corrigan and Libertarian nominee Jeff Goggins in the November 2, 2010 general election with 101,343 votes, 53.1% of those cast.[100]


Redistricting threw Kucinich into the same district as another Democratic incumbent, Marcy Kaptur. The two competed in the Democratic primary on March 6, 2012, but Kucinich lost after an increasingly bitter campaign. Kucinich had been endorsed by another House member, Barney Frank of Massachusetts.[101]

Kucinich was mentioned frequently as a possible 2012 candidate for congress in the state of Washington, and openly admitted exploring the idea, but ultimately decided against running and decided to retire from congress when his term ended in January 2013.[102][103][104]

Political positions

Based on his voting record in Congress, the American Conservative Union (ACU) gave Kucinich a conservative rating of 9.73%,[105] and for 2008, the liberalAmericans for Democratic Action (ADA) gave him a liberal rating of 95%.[106]

Monetary reform

In the aftermath of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, Kucinich called for the Federal Reserve System to be put under control of U.S. Treasury.[107] Additionally, banks shall no longer be allowed to create money, putting an end to fractional-reserve banking.[108] He cites Stephen Zarlenga as the initiator of that proposal.

Plan for Iraq

On January 8, 2007 Kucinich unveiled his comprehensive exit plan to bring the troops home and stabilize Iraq. His plan included the following steps:[109]

  1. Announce that the US will end the occupation, close the military bases, and withdraw.
  2. Announce that existing funds will be used to bring the troops and the necessary equipment home.
  3. Order a simultaneous return of all US contractors to the US and turn over the contracting work to the Iraqi government.
  4. Convene a regional conference for developing a security and stabilization force for Iraq.
  5. Prepare an international security peacekeeping force to replace US troops, who then return home.
  6. Develop and fund a process of national reconciliation.
  7. Restart programs for reconstruction and creating jobs for the Iraqi people.
  8. Provide reparations for the damage that has been done to the lives of Iraqis.
  9. Assure the political sovereignty of Iraq and ensure that their oil is not stolen.
  10. Repair the Iraqi economy.
  11. Guarantee economic sovereignty for Iraq.
  12. Commence an international truth and reconciliation process, which establishes a policy of truth and reconciliation between the people of the US and Iraq.

Space Preservation Act of 2001

Kucinich introduced the first Space Preservation Act, on October 2, 2001, with no cosponsors. The bill was designed to “preserve the cooperative, peaceful uses of space for the benefit of all humankind.” The bill was referred to the House Science, the House Armed Services, and the House International Relations committees. The bill died in committee (April 9, 2002) because of an unfavorable executive comment received from the Department of Defense.[110]

Impeachment proceedings against Dick Cheney

On April 17, 2007, Kucinich sent a letter to his Democratic colleagues saying that he planned to file impeachmentproceedings against Dick Cheney, then Vice President of the United States.[111] Kucinich planned to introduce the impeachment articles on April 24, 2007, but in light of Cheney’s visit to his doctor for an inspection of a blood clot, Kucinich decided to postpone the scheduled press conference “until the vice president’s condition is clarified.”[112]

Kucinich held a press conference on the evening of April 24, 2007, revealing House Resolution 333 and the threearticles of impeachment against Cheney. He charges Cheney with manipulating the evidence of Iraq’s weapons program, deceiving the nation about Iraq’s connection to al-Qaeda, and threatening aggression against Iran in violation of the United Nations charter. Kucinich opened his press conference by quoting from the Declaration of Independence, and stated: “I believe the Vice President’s conduct of office has been destructive to the founding purposes of our nation. Today, I have introduced House Resolution 333, Articles of Impeachment Relating to Vice President Richard B. Cheney. I do so in defense of the rights of the American people to have a government that is honest and peaceful.”[113]

During the first Democratic Presidential debate at South Carolina State University,[114] none of the other candidates’ hands went up when the moderator, Brian Williams, asked if they would support Kucinich’s plan to impeach Cheney. In response, Kucinich retrieved a pocket-sized copy of the U.S. Constitution from his coat and expressed the importance of protecting and defending constitutional principles.

This is a pocket copy of the Constitution which I carry with me, because I took an oath to defend the Constitution. We’ve spent a lot of time talking about Iraq here tonight and America’s role in the world. This country was taken into war based on lies. This country was taken into war based on lies about weapons of mass destruction and Al Qaeda’s role with respect to Iraq, which there wasn’t one at the time we went in. I want to state that Mr. Cheney must be held accountable. He is already ginning up a cause for war against Iran. Now, we have to stand for this Constitution, we have to protect and defend this Constitution. And this vice president has violated this Constitution. So I think that while my friends on the stage may not be ready to take this stand, the American people should know that there’s at least one person running for president who wants to reconnect America with its goodness, with its greatness, with its highest principles, which currently are not being reflected by those who are in the White House.
—Dennis Kucinich, New York Times, April 27, 2007[115]

By January 29, 2008, 24 other Congressional representatives became cosponsors.[116] Six of these were members of the House Judiciary CommitteeTammy BaldwinKeith EllisonHank JohnsonMaxine WatersSteve Cohen and Sheila Jackson-Lee. In addition, Congressman Robert Wexler, supported by Representatives Luis Gutierrez and Tammy Baldwin, began openly calling for impeachment hearings to begin.

Cheney impeachment articles introduced

On November 6, 2007, Kucinich used special parliamentary procedure and moved for a vote on impeaching the Vice President.[117] House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and House Speaker Pelosi opposed the measure and stood by previous comments that, “impeachment is not on our agenda,” and they initially moved to table the bill. When that attempt failed, Mr. Hoyer quickly moved to refer the bill to the House Judiciary Committee. That motion succeeded.[117]

Opposition to H1B/L1 visa programs

Kucinich has been a vocal opponent of the H1B and L1 visa programs. In an article on his campaign website, he states:[118]

The expanded use of H-1B and L-1 visas has had a negative effect on the workplace of Information Technology workers in America. It has caused a reduction in wages. It has forced workers to accept deteriorating working conditions and allowed U.S. companies to concentrate work in technical and geographic areas that American workers consider undesirable. It has also reduced the number of IT jobs held by Americans.

Plan to ban handguns

In the aftermath of the Virginia Tech massacre in BlacksburgVirginia, Kucinich proposed a plan that he says would address violence in America. Kucinich drafted legislation that included a ban on the purchase, sale, transfer, or possession of handguns by civilians.[119]

Kucinich pushed for gun control, in the U.S. Congress as well as during his time as a city councilman. He kept a pistol in his house for a period in 1978 (under the recommendation of the police) when he was the target of a Mafia plot. He no longer keeps the pistol.[120]

Support for reinstating the Fairness Doctrine

Kucinich was involved in efforts to bring back the Fairness Doctrine, requiring radio stations to give liberal and conservative points of view equal time, which he and other critics of talk radio argue is not presently the case. Fellow Democrat Maurice Hichney, Vermont’s independent Senator Bernie Sanders, and others have joined him in this effort.[121] Conservatives have criticized these plans, alleging that what they believe to be a liberal-dominated Hollywoodacademianew media, and mainstream media would not be subject to these regulations.[122][123][124]

Animal welfare and rights

Kucinich addressed the issue of factory farming in his policy encouraging independent, family-owned, and organic farming. This would help lead to “the meat that we consume coming from happy and healthy free-range animals,” Kucinich states on his campaign website.[125]

During his time in office, Kucinich was one of the few vegans in Congress.[10] He became vegan in 1995.[126] He has maintained a diet for many years that excludes animal products in accordance with his conviction that “all life on our Earth [is] sacred.”[125][127]

Free Market Drug Act

Kucinich believes that the prices for patented drugs are unreasonably high, and that patent monopolies have created a restricted, unfree drug market. “Simply put, if drug manufacturers were operating in a free market like most other businesses in the US, drug prices would be significantly lower.” On September 29, 2004, he introduced H.R. 5155, the Free Market Drug Act; a system where the National Institutes of Health would fund research, thus disconnecting the manufacturing of drugs from research and increasing competition among private manufacturers.[128]

Energy policy

As mayor of Cleveland in the 1970s, Kucinich favored the city’s existing Municipal Light System and opposed construction of the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Plant and Perry Nuclear Power Plant on Lake Erie. Kucinich opposed a planned regional radioactive waste dump, and has long advocated renewable energy andefficient energy use.[129]

In 2010 Kucinich stated that new nuclear reactors are not cost-effective, and that they are a slow way of meeting electricity needs as it takes five or six years for new reactors to come on line. He also said that new nuclear reactors are a risky way to meet electricity needs.[130]

Attempts to impeach George W. Bush

On June 10, 2008, Kucinich introduced 35 articles of impeachment against President George W. Bush on the floor of the House of Representatives.[131][132][133]On June 11, the resolution was referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

Calling it “a sworn duty” of Congress to act, co-sponsor Robert Wexler stated: “President Bush deliberately created a massive propaganda campaign to sell the war in Iraq to the American people and the charges detailed in this impeachment resolution indicate an unprecedented abuse of executive power.”[134]

On July 10, 2008, Kucinich introduced an additional article of impeachment accusing Bush of misleading Congress into war.[135][136][137]

On July 14, 2008 Kucinich introduced a new resolution of impeachment against George W. Bush, charging him with manufacturing evidence to sway public opinion in favor of the war in Iraq. This resolution was also sent to the judiciary committee.

Democratic leaders Steny Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi opposed the impeachment efforts.[citation needed] None of them ever progressed to a full House vote.

Youth rights

In a Democratic debate during the 2008 Presidential Election, Kucinich and Mike Gravel were the only two candidates who favored lowering the legal drinking ageto 18 as it is in the vast majority of the world. Kucinich further said that the voting age should be lowered to 16.[138]

Military intervention in Libya

Kucinich objected to the 2011 military intervention in Libya missile strikes and questioned whether they weren’t impeachable offenses. Kucinich also questioned why Democratic leaders didn’t object when President Barack Obama told them of his plan for US participation in enforcing the Libyan no-fly zone. He said Obama’s action in Libya was “a grave decision that cannot be made by the president alone”, and stated that failing to first seek approval of Congress was in violation of the Constitution.[139][140]

On August 31, Al Jazeera reported that a document had been found in the headquarters of the Libyan intelligence agency which according to the author appears to be a summary of a conversation between Kucinich and an intermediary for Saif al-Islam Gaddafi in which the congressman asked for information about the anti-Gaddafi National Transitional Council (NTC), possible links of it to al-Qaeda and corruption evidences, to lobby US lawmakers to put an end to NATO airstrikes and suspend their support for the NTC.[141] It also listed information necessary to defend Saif al-Islam against International Criminal Court war crimes charges.[141] Kucinich defended himself in a message to The Atlantic Wire, saying that the document in question is simply a summary of Kucinich’s public positions on the Libyan campaign by a Libyan bureaucrat who never consulted with Kucinich himself. “Al Jazeera found a document written by a Libyan bureaucrat to other Libyan bureaucrats. All it proves is that the Libyans were reading the Washington Post… Any implication I was doing anything other than trying to bring an end to an unauthorised war is fiction.”[141][142]

Electoral history


In 2003, Kucinich was the recipient of the Gandhi Peace Award, an annual award bestowed by the Religious Society of Friends-affiliated organization Promoting Enduring Peace.[10]

After Kucinich lost to Marcy Kaptur in the 2012 Democratic primary, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) said of Kucinich, “At the end of the day, we’re really going to miss Dennis. Dennis is a transformative leader. He stood up and spoke eloquently, passionately about Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran. He was a consistent voice for peace… He almost didn’t vote for the health care bill because it wasn’t good enough.”[143]

See also


  1. ^ Milicia, Joe (January 24, 2008). “Kucinich abandons White House bid”.WRAL-TV. Archived from the original on January 27, 2008.
  2. ^ “Democrats make it official – Politics-”. MSNBC. 2004-07-29. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
  3. ^ “Kucinich Excluded From Des Moines Register Debate”. Scoop. 2007-12-14. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
  4. ^ “Ohio House primaries: Reps. Dennis Kucinich, Jean Schmidt fall”.
  5. ^ Kane, Paul (March 13, 2012). “Kucinich trailing in battle for redistricted seat”The Washington Post.
  6. ^ Alex M. Parker (February 9, 2012). “Friendly Fire Coming in House Re-Elections?”U.S. News and World Report.
  7. ^ Andrea Billups (February 6, 2012). “Kaptur, Kucinich face off in Ohio”The Washington Times.
  8. ^ Kevin Milliken (January 16, 2012). “Kaptur, Kucinich square off for one congressional seat”. La Prensa.
  9. ^ Weiner, Rachel (January 16, 2013). “Fox News Hires Dennis Kucinich”.The Washington Post.
  10. a b c “About Dennis Kucinich.” Dennis for President. July 24, 2007. <; padding-right: 18px; background-position: 100% 50%; background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat; “>>
  11. ^
  12. a b c Okamoto, Lynn (2003-09-07). “Kucinich’s hard childhood a ‘gift’ yielding strength, compassion”. Des Moines Register. Archived from the original on 2004-02-09.
  13. ^ Ramer, Holly (2007-08-15). “Kucinich speaks from experience on homelessness”. Boston Globe. Archived from the original on 2008-09-07. Retrieved 2007-08-16.
  14. a b c “Presidency 2004 DENNIS J. KUCINICH (Democrat – Ohio)” Retrieved July 25, 2007.
  15. ^ “About Dennis.” Congressman Dennis Kucinich. July 25, 2007
  16. ^ Ryzik, Melena. “Recommend E-MAIL Dennis J. Kucinich”Times Topics(The New York Times Company). Retrieved November 20, 2010.
  17. ^ Theiss, Evelyn (2005-10-30). “How Kucinich Found Love”. Cleveland, Ohio: The Plain Dealer. Archived from the original on 2005-10-30. Retrieved 2008-01-13.
  18. ^ Kucinich’s brother found dead in home, CNN, December 19, 2007
  19. ^ Dennis Kucinich’s brother found deadMSNBC, December 19, 2007
  20. ^ Perry Kucinich, Dennis’ younger brother, found dead in apartment, December 19, 2007, Alana Baranik, Cleveland Plain Dealer
  21. ^ McRae, Sarena (2008-11-11). “Beth Ann Kucinich, 48, musician, artist, sister of Congressman Dennis Kucinich”Cleveland Plain Dealer. Retrieved 2009-03-26.
  22. ^ Rucker, Philip (29 January 2011). “The tortured tale of Rep. Dennis Kucinich and his olive pit”Washington Post. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
  23. ^ “Kucinich joins Fox News Channel”. The Hill. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
  24. ^ Bartimole, Roldo (1992-07-18).; padding-right: 18px; background-position: 100% 50%; background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat; “>”25 Years of Cleveland Mayors: Who Really Governs?” (PDF). Point of View. Retrieved 2008-01-13.
  25. ^ The Encyclopedia Of Cleveland History by Cleveland Bicentennial Commission (Cleveland, Ohio), David D. Van Tassel (Editor), and John J. Grabowski (Editor) ISBN 978-0-253-33056-7
  26. a b The Plain Dealer, August 1, 1999. Our Century: ‘Boy Mayor’ Leads Battle Into Default by Fred McGunagle.
  27. ^ The Crisis of Growth Politics: Cleveland, Kucinich, and the Challenge of Urban Populism by Todd Swanstrom ISBN 978-0-87722-366-5
  28. ^ Renner, James (2007-07-04). “The Mafia Plot To Kill Dennis Kucinich”TheCleveland Free Times. pp. Cover story. Archived from the original on July 8, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-06.
  29. ^ [1]‘Boy Mayor’ Kucinich Took Charge in Utility Debt Crisis, From LA Times, January 23, 2003
  30. a b c d e Pilolla, Ed (2004). “He’s always had a destiny”. Concord Monitor. Archived from the original on 2004-01. Retrieved 2008-01-13.[dead link]
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  35. ^ “Michelle Obama Gets Backup From Scarlett Johansson on Healthful Eating – Washington Whispers”. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
  36. ^ “GovTrack: H.R. 6166 [109th]: Military Commissions Act of 2006 (Vote On Passage)”. 2006-09-27. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
  37. ^ “GovTrack: H.R. 1955: Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 (Vote On Passage)”. 2007-10-23. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
  38. ^ H.RES.581 Authorizing and directing the Committee on the Judiciary to investigate whether sufficient grounds exist for the impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton
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  42. ^ Final Vote Results for Role Call 7“, January 6, 2005.
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  51. ^ Calling on the United Nations Security Council to charge Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with violating the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the United Nations Charter because of his calls for the destruction of the State of Israel, June 20, 2007
  52. ^ “Bill Number H.CON.RES.21 for the 110th Congress”. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
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  55. ^ “Final vote results for roll call 866 on H RES 643”. 2007-09-10. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
  56. ^ H. Res. 643, text of “9/11 Commemoration” bill, September 10, 2007
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  58. ^ US Democratic hopeful Kucinich meets Assad, blasts BushThe Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2007-09-10
  59. ^ Dennis Kucinich’s Syria follies“, an editorial of The Plain Dealer, September 13, 2007.
  60. ^ US Democratic hopeful Kucinich meets Assad, blasts BushThe Jerusalem Post, September 6, 2007
  61. ^ “House Joint Resolution 64”. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
  62. ^ “FINAL VOTE RESULTS FOR ROLL CALL 98”. Retrieved 17 March 2010.
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  64. ^ Rogers, David (10 March 2010). “House rejects forced troop withdrawal”.The Politico. Retrieved 14 March 2010.
  65. ^ Condon, Stephanie (21 March 2011). “Kucinich says Obama “crossed the line,” calls attacks on Libya an “indisputable” impeachable offense”CBS News. Retrieved 14 March 2010.
  66. ^ Harding, Luke (25 August 2011). “Gaddafi’s desperate bid to save regime revealed”The Guardian (London). Retrieved 25 August 2011.
  67. ^ Democratic 2004 Primary Presidential Debate in Durham, New Hampshire, December 9, 2003.
  68. a b “Kucinich & Braun Blast ABC For Reducing Campaign Coverage.”Democracy Now! December 12, 2003. Retrieved July 24, 2007.
  69. a b “How the Media Picks the Candidates author=Robinson, Josh and Lorna Tychostup”Z Magazine. February 2004. Archived from the original on January 3, 2007. Retrieved August 26, 2011.
  70. ^ Rick Lyman, “Down But Not Out, Kucinich Keeps Fighting“, The New York Times, May 17, 2004.
  71. ^ “Kerry visits spotlights Oregon’s state primary”. KGW news. May 18, 2004. Archived from the original on January 3, 2009. Retrieved August 26, 2011.
  72. ^ David Halbfinger, “The 2004 Campaign: Campaign Briefing — The Democrats; Kucinich Endorses Kerry”The New York Times, July 23, 2004.
  73. ^ “Issues”. Dennis Kucinich for president accessdate=August 26, 2011. Archived from the original on April 23, 2008.
  74. ^ Naymik, Mark. Many Kucinich backers are out there – way outThe Plain Dealer. Retrieved 2007-10-14
  75. ^ “Kucinich Asks Supporters to Back Obama”Google News. Associated Press. Archived from the original on January 5, 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-02.
  76. ^ “Kucinich Urges Supporters to Back Obama on Second Iowa Ballot”. Archived from the original on January 2, 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-05.
  77. a b Eaton, Sabrina. “Kucinich at debate: I did see a UFO”. Retrieved 2007-11-28
  78. ^ Jones, Chris. “Larry Flynt Hosts Fundraiser For Dennis Kucinich”. Retrieved 2008-01-03
  79. ^ Katz, Jackson. Dennis Kucinich Endorses Hustler. The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2008-01-03
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  81. ^ “The Return of the King… for Kucinich”. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
  82. ^ “Asks for New Hampshire Recount”. MSNBC. 2008-01-11. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
  83. ^ Ken Ritter (January 15, 2008). “Court: MSNBC Can Bar Kucinich”. Associated Press. Archived from the original on February 13, 2008. Retrieved August 26, 2011.
  84. ^ “Breaking the Sound Barrier: Democracy Now! Re-Hosts NBC Las Vegas Debate to Include Kucinich After NBC Wins Appeal to Exclude Him”. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
  85. ^ Naymik, Mark and Kavanoaugh, Molly. Kucinich drops presidential bid.The Plain Dealer, January 24, 2008.
  86. ^ Cillizza, Chris. Why Kucinich Dropped Out NowThe Washington Post, January 24, 2008.
  87. ^ Kucinich, Dennis (January 25, 2008). “Kucinich withdraws from Presidential race”. Archived from the original on January 30, 2008. Retrieved August 26, 2011.
  88. ^ [2] Kucinich’s Democratic National Convention Speech (VIDEO), FromHuffington Post, August 26, 2008
  89. ^ “10th Congressional candidate Palmer raised $133,300 in ’07 – OPENERS – Ohio Politics Blog by The Plain Dealer”. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
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  93. ^ Davis, Susan (2008-02-22). “Long Shots Could Pay High Price –”. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
  94. ^ “House members who missed votes, 110th Congress (Congress votes database)”. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
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  96. ^ “Kucinich denies AIPAC meeting”. JTA. February 11, 2008. Archived fromthe original on August 21, 2008. Retrieved August 26, 2011.
  97. ^ author: Jody Paulson (2008-02-06). “portland imc – 2008.02.06 – Kucinich throws reps from Nancy Pelosi and AIPAC out of his office”. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
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  99. ^ “Kucinich Wins Chance To Keep U.S. Rep. Seat”WEWS. March 5, 2008. Archived from the original on May 26, 2008. Retrieved August 26, 2011.
  100. ^ Representative To Congress: November 2, 2010
  101. ^ Frank, Barney“Congressman Barney Frank for Dennis Kucinich in Ohio’s New Ninth”. Retrieved 2012-01-26.
  102. ^ Northeast Ohio. “Dennis Kucinich holding back on future plans, but not on criticism for victorious rival Marcy Kaptur”. Retrieved 2012-11-09.
  103. ^ Sabrina Eaton/The Plain Dealer. “Rep. Dennis Kucinich won’t run for Congress in Washington state”. Retrieved 2012-11-09.
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  107. ^ Dennis Kucinich States His Intention To Put The Federal Reserve Under Government Control on YouTube retrieved 2010-05-24
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  115. ^ “The Democrats’ First 2008 Presidential Debate”. The New York Times. April 27, 2007.
  116. ^ Library of Congress, H.RES.333, Summary as of: 04/24/2007 — IntroducedTHOMAS
  117. a b “Brady Supports Kucinich Move to Impeach Cheney”. The Philadelphia Bulletin. November 7, 2007.
  118. ^ “Dennis on outsourcing American jobs”Dennis Kucinich on H-1B and L-1 Visas.
  119. ^ “Kucinich Offers Comprehensive Plan to Address Violence in America”(Press release). Dennis J. Kucinich. 2007-04-18.
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  121. ^ Fred Lucas (January 17, 2007). “Democrats’ New ‘Fairness’ Push May Silence Conservative Radio Hosts, Critics Say”CBS News. Archived fromthe original on March 29, 2008. Retrieved August 26, 2011.
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  124. ^ Will, George F. (2007-05-07). “Fraudulent ‘Fairness'”. Newsweek.
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  128. ^ [3], Kucinich for patent free drugs.
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  133. ^ video[dead link]
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  136. ^ rtsp://
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  138. ^ Parker, Jennifer (2007-10-09). “Group Stirs Debate on Legal Drinking Age”. ABC News. Retrieved 2010-01-18. “Of course, they should be able to drink at age 18, and they should be able to vote at age 16”
  139. ^ Liberal Democrats in uproar over Libya actionPolitico; March 19, 2011
  140. ^ Dennis Kucinich: Obama’s Libya Attack An Impeachable Offense; Talking Points Memo; March 21, 2011
  141. a b c Elshayyal, Jamal (August 31, 2011). Secret files: US officials aided Gaddafi. Al Jazeera. Accessed August 31, 2011
  142. ^ Uri Friedman (August 31, 2011). Al Jazeera Says Kucinich Worked With Qaddafis, Kucinich Denies The Atlantic Wire
  143. ^ Jonathan Allen and Alex Isenstadt (March 7, 2012). “Dennis Kucinich loss is end of an era”. Politico.

External links

The Complete Kucinich – from Cleveland Magazine

A series of articles about Dennis Kucinich from Cleveland Magazine

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No one knows Dennis Kucinich like the people of Cleveland. And Cleveland Magazine has been covering his career ever since our inaugural edition in April 1972, when Kucinich tipped his psychedelic Uncle Sam hat on the cover. 
Now that the man with many a moniker — Denny The Kid, The Boy Mayor, Dennis The Menace — has set his sights on the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, Cleveland Magazine editors offer this seven-article, four-decade retrospective of Dennis Kucinich and his impact on the city, the region and national politics.

Denny the Kid
From Cleveland Magazine, April 1972
It’s a long way from the West Side to the White House, but then again, it’s a long way from St. John Cantius to Council. For the “little people” living under the shadow of the myth that the boy next door can grow up to be president, 26-year-old Councilman Dennis Kucinich is a real-life apparition that walks, talks, and plays the game of politics with the knack of knowing how to use a few basic tools: the middle classes, the media, and a frightening will to win.
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The Prince and The Power
From Cleveland Magazine, April 1978

Few have escaped the wrath of the new mayor and his army of loyal, arrogant courtiers as they wage holy war from City Hall. But are palace skullduggery and management by media helping anyone but Dennis?
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Kucinich on the Couch
From Cleveland Magazine, June 1978

A psychological portrait featuring, among other things, high school sports, comic book superheroes and an adopted family at City Hall.
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Kucinich’s Final Days
From Cleveland Magazine, January 1980

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Dennis Kucinich: The Story
From Cleveland Magazine, May 1996

As Dennis Kucinich rides the wave of his political comeback to challenge Martin Hoke for Congress, he looks back at his childhood and forward to his future, crediting his fall from politics for his new peace of mind. Looks like the boy mayor has finally grown up. 
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from The 30 People Who Defined Cleveland
From Cleveland Magazine, December 2002

Friends and rivals recount their memories of Kucinich’s epic battles as mayor, his years in exile and his triumphant comeback.
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The Missionary
From Cleveland Magazine, December 2007

Dennis Kucinich is running for president — again. Seriously. But the talk-show punch lines and complaints he can’t win only feed his enormous self-confidence. He says he is Cleveland’s message to America. But is Dennis the message we want to send?
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Dennis Kucinich aggregation

1 Dennis Kucinich: The Boy Mayor (Video)
2 Dennis Kucinich from Wikipedia
3 The Complete Kucinich – from Cleveland Magazine
4 CBS Evening News on Cleveland’s Default – Dec., 1978
5 Muni Light 15 Years Later
6 “The King of Spin” From The Scene
7 Kucinich’s Final Days – from Cleveland Magazine
8 NBC’s Tom Snyder interviews Dennis Kucinich at Tony’s in 1978
9 Cleveland mayoral recall election, 1978

Cleveland in the 1970s – Mike Roberts

Michael D. Roberts was a reporter for The Plain Dealer in the 1960s and covered many of the events in that decade including the Vietnam War. He later edited Cleveland Magazine for 17 years.

Cleveland in the 1970s

The .pdf of this article is here

At first, the arrival of a new decade to the Greater Cleveland area in 1970 appeared a welcomed reprieve from the political and social intensity of the past ten years. The era will be remembered as one of the most cataclysmic in city history. Now the population dropped to 750,903, and the census ranked Cleveland as the tenth largest city in the U.S.

The suburb of Parma grew to a population of over 100,000 and was the ninth largest city in Ohio, evidence of the exodus from the city which numbered more than 165,000 in over 20 years. Yet Cleveland was still the dominant political and economic entity in Northeastern Ohio.

But that role was being threatened by the development of a highway system that fanned out from the city like spokes from a hub, corridors to the bucolic beckoning of the suburbs that would in a short time change the nature of the region.

World War II disrupted long-time plans to build the Willow Freeway that would open the southern suburbs to quick downtown access. The freeway was opened in sections, beginning in the early 1950s, and ultimately became Interstate-77, which made regional travel more accessible.

By 1970 a vast Interstate system crisscrossed Northeastern Ohio, shifting development away from the traditional population centers that had originated along railroad lines. Automobiles traveled these highways on gasoline that cost 36 cents per gallon.

In the spring of 1970, America was divided over the Vietnam conflict and protests shifted from civil rights to that of opposing the war. Less than 40 miles south of Cleveland, those protests culminated on May 4, 1970, in one of the most unlikely places in the nation, Kent State University, where four students were killed by National Guardsman, who had been summoned to the campus to subdue a protest. The tragedy symbolized the ending of the tumultuous 1960s and left an exhausted nation seeking tranquility and a sense of normalcy.

If the nation was seeking relief from the anger and resentment over the Vietnam War, the City of Cleveland was in need of its own salve. The final years of the Mayor Carl B. Stokes administration produced a series of sharp confrontations with the police department and Council Presidents James V. Stanton and Tony Garofoli. Both emerged from the 1960s as substantial political figures and antagonists of the mayor.

Throughout the final months of his term, Stokes berated the newspapers, former allies, and anyone who seemingly challenged him. The strain of managing a city in torment was taking its toll on everyone.

The city was caught in the grips of racial polarization. While Stokes had opened the way for minorities in government and business, the black organization he created—the 21st District Caucus—withdrew from the Democratic Party, making a difficult political scene even more fractious.

Meanwhile, conditions worsened in the city. Businesses were steadily abandoning downtown, plans to disperse public housing on the West Side were met with hostility in the neighborhoods, deepening the tensions at City Hall. Public services were slipping; crime was at a record pace, as drugs began an insidious and irreversible intrusion into the poor areas of the city.

In 1972, homicide in the city set a record with 333 murders. Ten years earlier there had been only 59.

Looming in the wings and ready once more to take center stage was the school issue. It had been this controversy that set off the Hough Riot, which ultimately lead to Carl Stokes’s rise. In the 1970s, problems in the school system would spill out over the city and touch the lives of everyone.

All of this was too much. No one could triage the issues, much less solve them, especially an embattled Carl Stokes who saw no respite, nor allies, nor even hope. The once promising City Hall that Stokes assembled dissipated and his temperament became increasingly short and accusatory toward those who challenged him.

The newspapers continued to offer support, but it was becoming clear that the community was losing confidence in Stokes. It is important in evaluating this era to understand that much of the confidence accorded Stokes was generated by an inflated expectation factor both by community business leaders and the mayor himself. When it became clear that the negative forces at work, both here and nationally, were of such magnitude that no single person could overcome them, the emotional letdown was more than Stokes or the community could bear.

The painful decade that had spawned so many hopes and dreams, and invited the world to watch, was over. Life went on, but the dynamic that drove Cleveland was changing.

Seven months into the new decade, George Szell, the great conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra and the city’s legendary cultural icon, died at 73. No Clevelander in his time projected the city globally and with such grandeur as did Szell. He conducted the orchestra with a martial majesty for 24 years.

The desire for sense of normalcy descended upon Cleveland as Carl Stokes announced, on April 16, 1971, that he would not run for a third term as the city’s mayor. The progressive nature of his politics gave way to the return of the status quo to which the ethnic composite of the city lent itself.

Stokes organized the 21st District Caucus in order to counter the existing white political apparatus and gain a greater voice in that community. Black politicians began to emerge from the caucus and establish themselves as leaders, replacing Carl Stokes in the community.

Stokes withdrew the caucus and black political participation from the Democratic Party out of frustration and charges of racism. The secession of the caucus would play a role in crippling the party’s efforts to retain power in City Hall.

The long tradition of a strong and united Democratic Party had been severely tested during the 1960s, with the emergence of black politics. Over time, the party had become composed of three elements: the Irish on the West Side, the Italians on the East Side, and the Eastern European population that made up the ethnic nature of Cleveland’s South Side.

The evolution of black politics, which had emerged from Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, elbowed its way into Cleveland’s political mosaic, creating an abrasive mix that brought charges of racism, disrupted the patterns of patronage, and circumvented the paths of political ambition for a generation of Democratic hopefuls. In the fall of 1971, when it came time to reclaim City Hall, the party was woefully unprepared to step forward and do so.

The party split internally, offering two candidates for the fall primary, City Council President Tony Garofoli and businessman James Carney, a long-time behind the scenes political figure. Representing the black community and running as an independent was Arnold Pinckney, the school board president and confidant to Carl Stokes who lent his considerable support to the campaign.

On the Republican side was Ralph J. Perk, who was elected county auditor in 1962 and enjoyed favorable support from the newspapers in that role. Perk promoted himself as an honest and ethical politician and ran on that premise. He ran for mayor against Stokes in 1969 and lost by 4,500 votes.

Running against him in the Republican primary was a rising political star whose ascension to political prominence was yet in the future. George Voinovich was in the Ohio House of Representatives when he opposed Perk.

Perk was a curious blend of politician for Cleveland. In a sense, he was not Republican, in that he did not fit in with the image so rigidly attached to the party by its critics. For instance, it was questionable whether he could even get into the Union Club in those days, let alone afford its dues. He was more comfortable amongst his neighbors on East 49th Street, where the polka and perogies were favored over the symphony and sushi.

Perk was perceived as a man of the people. He created this image largely through newspaper accounts of his challenges to the business practices of John and James M. Carney, who used political contacts and manipulations to acquire vast real estate holdings. The Plain Dealer, in particular, had been severely critical of the Carney brothers. It was ironic then, that Perk and Jim Carney would face each other in the race for City Hall.

Jim Carney, by many accounts, was among the smartest men in town. He was a lawyer, self-made, the ethics of his achievements dubious in the eyes of some. Nevertheless, Carney was respected by the business community. He built several buildings around a revived East 9th Street. Even though he was active in politics throughout his life, he generally spurned the rigors of public campaigning for the solitude of the strategist. It suited his personality and his pursuits.

When Pinckney failed in the primary, Carl Stokes marshaled the black vote and shifted it behind Carney. The tense feelings between Stokes and Garofoli from their earlier clashes over public housing at City Hall were still raw.

As always, the newspapers played a key role with their endorsements. The Cleveland Press supported Carney and The Plain Dealer, which had aided Perk in his attacks on the Carney brothers, supported Garofoli.

The contempt in which Carney held The Plain Dealer was illustrated by the fact that he became a stockholder in the newspaper, often offering embarrassing remarks as to its business practices at the annual shareholder meeting, no doubt negating the paper’s support. All these diverse elements were shaping a pattern that favored Perk, despite the fact Democrats out numbered Republican registered voters 8 to 1.

Neither candidate could match the eloquence of the Stokes campaigns. Perk tramped tirelessly through neighborhoods, adapting to one ethnic culture then another, like a chameleon crossing a rainbow. He gained what would be an unholy alliance with key labor unions, and resurrected the traditional role of the ethnic politician who played the divisions of the town as if he were conducting an orchestra.

For all of Jim Carney’s faults, the downtown business community believed in him the way they did their investment counselors. After all, he had sunk his own money into downtown, building two hotels when the city sorely needed them. He organized a Port Authority and played a role in numerous civic efforts. He was the best they had, and the business leaders believed he would be an outstanding mayor.

As a campaigner, Carney was painful to watch. He suffered from a tall man’s awkwardness and was self-conscious as a speaker. He had spectacles that reporters referred to as “Coke-bottle thick” and never seemed at ease.

Together, the pair hardly presented an intoxicating campaign, but after the previous decade, the city needed to catch its collective breath, even if it involved political boredom. There was growing alarm in the business community, for many of the projects it championed in an effort to revive the town had failed. The city needed new blood, and fast.

Instead of that transfusion, it got old politics. Perk was the first elected Republican mayor in Cleveland since Harold Burton in 1935. Perk did not suffer from the enormous expectations that burdened Stokes, but as time passed he proved to be an inept administrator and an inconsequential mayor. The Cleveland business community—always sensitive to national ridicule that the city drew over such misadventures as the Cuyahoga River burning, its aimless sports teams, and even its intemperate climate—prepared for the worse.

It did not take long for Perk to add to the miasmatic ridicule that hung so lazily over Cleveland, in what one visiting sports writer once termed as the city that represented the broken nose of America. In October of 1972, while presiding over ceremonies opening a convention Perk, wielding a welder’s torch, set his hair on fire. The photograph that captured the moment was transmitted nationwide by wire services, perpetuating Cleveland jokes. Late night television shows were merciless.

When his wife reported to have turned down an invitation to a White House dinner because it conflicted with her bowling night, the jokes took on new life. Then an aide, in an attempt to defend the mayor’s involvement with a computer company, said that Perk, who had served as county auditor for nearly a decade, did not know the difference between a bond and a note, and the ridicule reached a new pitch. On a visit to Rome, Perk beseeched the Pope to pray for Cleveland.

On the city’s East Side, the Cleveland Clinic was emerging as a great medical center. It was capitalizing on two events that had taken place within its confines that would lead to it becoming the country’s, if not the world’s, leading cardiac hospital. The decade at the clinic was a time of perfecting these two procedures.

In 1958, Dr. Mason Sones had discovered, by accident, the first coronary arteriogram, which pictured the interior of an artery, thus enabling an exact determination of a diseased vessel. A maverick of sorts, Sones thrived on the independent nature of the Clinic at the time, and became a renowned figure in the cardiology community.

The other development that would propel the Clinic into the future, was the work of Dr. Rene Favaloro, a cardiothoracic surgeon, who developed the first successful coronary artery bypass procedure. These two procedures, and the work that Clinic doctors did throughout the 1970s to make them almost routine medicine, foretold the future of not only the Clinic, but good fortune for the city and ultimately the region.

Meanwhile, the announcement on the part of the Greater Cleveland Growth Association, the area’s chamber of commerce, of a plan to study the creation of a huge jetport in the lake created headlines. The plan was spearheaded by James C. Davis, the managing partner of Squires, Sanders & Dempsey, one of the city’s leading law firms.

The law firms—mainly Squires and Jones, Day, Cockley & Reavis—played an influential and sometimes covert role in the governing of the city. Because so many of their large clients had business interests in and around the city, the firms were often asked to intercede or interact with government in such matters as maintaining a good school system, promoting economic growth, and dealing with other day-to-day issues.

In effect, these firms operated as a shadow government. For instance, one day in the early 1970s, Mayor Carl Stokes called Jack Reavis, then managing partner of Jones, Day, and told him that the city did not have enough money in its budget to open the swimming pools that summer. There was fear in those hot summers days, for they were one of the ingredients of the riots that had devastated the city.

Stokes called Reavis in the hopes that he could help raise the needed money to open the pools. Reavis rallied the business community in a matter of hours and the needed funds were obtained.

The firms played a large role in the community in other ways. They recruited young lawyers from the best law schools, bringing a steady stream of intellectual capital to the city. These young lawyers fanned out to volunteer for countless civic and cultural boards, and some became candidates for public office. The legal community provided stability to a city whose political foundation was fractional and inbred.

To understand the impact of the big firms on the town, it must be noted that they served the interests of their clients well. That is what they were paid to do, and sometimes the interests of those clients were not always aligned with that of the city.

The jetport plan became lost in a debate between conflicting interests. It also may have been stillborn out of the frustration of the business community over decades of political ineptness in its efforts to regain the greatness that the city enjoyed in the earlier part of the century.

Prior to the Depression, Cleveland had a reputation of acting in a grand manner. When it was conceived, the Terminal Tower was the second tallest building in the world, the airport was the largest in the world at one time, and the first ever to be lighted for night operations. Cleveland manufactured the first commercially sold automobiles, and for a time was the aviation capital of America. It had the largest convention center in the country.

There was a desire and a need to do something on a greater scale. It was clear, however, that the leadership necessary for large scale endeavor was not going to come from City Hall.

When James C. Davis, managing partner of Squires, Sanders & Dempsey, took over as chairman of the Growth Association, it was a jumbled and ineffective body. Davis reorganized it, drew the business community and newspapers together, and launched the jetport idea, with a warning that Cleveland could not afford to miss this opportunity if it was to regain its prominence.

The object was to raise $1.2 million for a feasibility plan for a jetport that could be completed by 1985. It would serve as a catalyst for 70,000 new jobs with a payroll of $500,000,000, according to preliminary studies. Projections were for substantial increase in air travel and the use of supersonic transports which would link Europe to Cleveland in a few hours. The federal government was studying the establishment of a series of hub airports around the county to accommodate these flights.

Because of a lack of trust or competence or simply out of naivete, there grew a reluctance on the part of the business community to engage openly with the city’s political and civic grass roots. Ideas involving the expenditure of public money were packaged in back rooms, sold to willing and eager newspapers who presented plans as faits accomplis.

If the city’s leaders yearned for the return of the city, they failed to study the past and understand how citizens contributed to the growth of the city.

Contrast that to the way the town handled the building of the Public Auditorium and the Terminal Tower. Those issues were voted upon; and, in the case of the auditorium, the bond issue passed 4 to 1 in 1916. More people voted in that election than cast ballots in the presidential primary that year. Voters approved the moving of the train terminal to Public Square in 1919.

The failure to involve the public in succeeding years cast suspicion and doomed more than one public project. This division between the sectors of the community would continue to haunt the city for years to come.

Environmental groups, civic watchdog organizations, and other good government groups bridled at being treated in such a manner. They organized opposition that made politicians reluctant to engage in visionary plans, no matter what promise they held for the common prosperity of the community. So was the fate of the jetport, which died from ridicule and added to the city’s cynicism.

Chief among the critics was a young city councilman named Dennis J. Kucinich. He used the jetport issue as a platform, gaining notoriety citywide for his opposing view. As the decade progressed, Kucinich’s public presence would become as familiar as the newspaper at your door.

Was the jetport a missed opportunity? No one will ever know, because the necessary studies to determine its feasibility were never completed, having been lost somewhere amidst the dissent. Nearly 40 years later, former City Council President George Forbes, who was present at the debates, said the project was 50 years ahead of its time.

Despite the failure of the jetport, a spirit of restoration and revival seemed to permeate the city. A band of young and dedicated investors began to refurbish aging Ohio City, struggling against the odds to remake the neighborhood, in a project that would continue on for a half century and reflect the pride of a community like nowhere else in the city.

When the great theaters, the hallmarks of Playhouse Square, were threatened with demolition, the Junior League and others mounted a Herculean effort to save them, thus ensuring that a celebrated part of the city survived and regained its vibrancy.

The Depression and then World War II had arrested downtown development decades before but, as the 1970s progressed, new buildings began to rise with the encouragement of tax cuts. The city began to take on a new look. On Euclid Avenue and East 9th Street, the venerable Cleveland Trust, now called Ameritrust, erected a 29-story tower and promised a companion to it in the future, and the Diamond Shamrock Corporation built a 22-story headquarters at Superior and East 12th Street.

The 20-story Bond Court office building at East 9th Street and Superior Avenue was completed in 1971; and in 1973, the 526-room Bond Court Hotel was constructed adjacent to it on Superior Avenue, forming a complex along with a parking garage. The city had been painfully short on hotel rooms.

By 1973 the sprawling apartment complex known as Park Centre opened. It was hailed as the set piece of the embattled Erieview urban renewal project first begun in the late 1950s. The twin 22-story apartment towers between a two-story shopping complex cost $42 million and was the second most expensive downtown investment behind the Terminal Tower. Not far from the Park Centre on Superior Avenue, the Ernest Bohn Tower, a public housing project, rose another 22 stories, a monument to urban renewal and to the father of public housing.

The signal project of the decade for local government was the construction of the Justice Center Complex, which occupies a city block between St. Clair and Lakeside Avenues on Ontario Street. The 26-story building houses the Cleveland Police Department, the Cuyahoga County and Cleveland Municipal Courts, and the County Jail. Its planning had been a nightmare of negotiations between city and county officials, with Mayor Perk at one time threatening to withdraw from the project because of cost overruns.

Originally budgeted to cost $61 million, the controversial project ended up costing more than $125 million, and was stigmatized by rumors of illegalities associated with its construction that were never proven. It was also burdened with construction flaws, the latest discovered in 2010, when it was found that the lights in the police department headquarters had been on continuously since it was constructed in 1976. No provision had been made for light switches.

Downtown development, under the guise of saving the city, opened a Pandora’s box from which sprung tax abatement, an issue that would be used in such projects as the National City Bank Building at East 9th and Euclid Avenue and other development. Tax abatement was an issue with which opponents would tar Ralph Perk. The town lived on tax abatement well into the next century, eroding the tax base that would support the schools.

One of the most significant downtown projects of the time was the expansion of Cleveland State University, which had begun in 1964, an offshoot of old Fenn College.

By the time the 1970s arrived, the school, sorely needed by the city, had become a new economic engine driving the eastern side of downtown. The construction of the James A. Rhodes Tower in 1971 gave CSU its own landmark, with the campus spreading out around it as the decade passed.

If things were improving in the city’s higher education picture, the Cleveland school system was caught on the other end of the spectrum, perched precariously amidst racial and financial issues in search of a solution.

The school system had been at the forefront of the agitation and strife that caused the unrest leading to the Hough Riot in 1966. Despite increased civic involvement and the awareness of a festering situation, no real progress was made toward a solution. In fact, the school problem was getting worse.

School Superintendent Paul Briggs took over the Cleveland school system in 1964 and tried to meet the growing racial protest by building new schools. By the 1970s, he had built 50 neighborhood schools, and that was the problem.

By 1971, two out of three black students were attending classes in schools made up of mostly minorities. That ratio was increasing in Cleveland, while across the nation the integration of school systems was on the rise.

When the Cleveland Board of Education announced it would build new schools on the city’s East Side, black citizens and civil rights leaders balked, ar- guing and demonstrating that to do so would be a furtherance of segregation in an already divided city. Finally in 1973, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People filed a federal lawsuit claiming that it was impossible to receive a quality education in an illegally segregated situation such as Cleveland.

After five years of proceedings, U.S. District Judge Frank J. Battisti ruled that the school system was guilty of de facto and de jure segregation, which led to the bussing of students across town and even further tormented an already divided city. Critics say that Battisti overlooked the opportunity to build magnet schools that drew students of like interest, instead of spending millions on bussing.

There has long been a debate over how seriously bussing affected the city’s population loss, but the fact remains that it proved to be unpopular among both blacks and whites, and added to the embittered legacy of racial discontent. Ultimately, it helped to drive more families from both races to the suburbs, but was only a part of the migratory motivation, for drugs and crime were flourishing in unprecedented numbers.

Meanwhile, with Carl Stokes in New York City, where he was getting mixed reviews in his role as a news anchor on WABC-TV, racial politics flourished here, and three black political figures emerged in his shadow.

The first, was Louis Stokes, Carl’s older brother. Reserved, respected, and reticent, by comparison to his brother’s sophisticated and strident manner, Louis Stokes established himself as a fine lawyer and gained esteem in legal circles after a successful appearance before the United States Supreme Court. His quiet ways masked a strong and effective leader.

He was elected in 1968 to the U.S. House of Representatives. He later became chairman of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, which investigated the murders of President John F. Kennedy and the Reverence Martin Luther King, Jr.

The next was Arnold Pinckney, an insurance broker, who was one of Carl Stokes’s closest confidants. Strokes supported him as his successor at City Hall, but Pinckney failed as an independent candidate. Moderate in the public’s view, he served in several positions, but was best known for his work on the school board, where he opposed school bussing.

The third emerging political figure would be the most prominent and controversial in the eyes of the citizenry, and a lightening rod for racial issues. Bold in his pronouncements and quick to act, George Forbes was elected to the presidency of City Council in 1973 and served for 16 years, the longest term in Cleveland City Council history.

Forbes had a sense of humor, when it came to race issues. For a time, he hosted a daily talk radio show and often made remarks about the city’s racial climate. Those who knew the man and understood downtown politics often found it amusing. But for the many white West Siders, Forbes came across as exacerbating the already sensitive feelings about race.

It did not help that Forbes was accused of taking $500 in a scheme involving a visiting carnival. Charged by County Prosecutor John T. Corrigan, Forbes was defended by Squires, Sanders in a well-covered trial where he was found innocent. The trial added to the existing racial tensions.

Elsewhere, the quixotic nature of City Hall became bewildering. There was something about being mayor that seemed to change a person. Carl Stokes became embittered and, for Ralph Perk, the office took on a dream-like quality. Perk campaigned throughout his career as a proponent of the city’s “little people,” but as time passed his personality took on a sense of wanderlust.

In 1973, the Democrats made another feeble attempt at City Hall, running Jim Carney again, but his performance in the primary was so bad that he withdrew, and the party was forced to put Council Clerk Mercedes Cotner on the ballot, which resulted in the reelection of Ralph Perk.

Perk stunned many of his followers and friends when, in 1974, he decided to run for the U.S. Senate, a decision that cost him some of his valued advisers, who quit in protest. He was roundly defeated, by former astronaut John Glenn, but worse, the decision to run and abandon the city created a political stigma that would haunt him.

Organized crime in Cleveland reached far back into the century and attained its zenith during Prohibition, when it made a fortune in extortion and the sale of illegal alcohol. The mob was comprised of three elements: the Irish on the West Side and the Jews and Italian factions elsewhere.

By the time World War II ended, Jewish members of the organization could see that the future of criminal prosperity in Cleveland was limited. They sought legitimacy and became original investors in the development of Las Vegas.

To placate former partners, skim money from the casinos was sent back to Cleveland to the remaining mob members, mostly Italians who headquartered in and around Murray Hill. The regular flow of money from Las Vegas created a lethargy in mob operations here. Adding members to the organization meant splitting the cash flow further, which was not economical.

Over time, the organization became more myth than mob, but Clevelanders enjoyed perpetuating the legend, so the once dark specter of organized crime continued to have a presence, exaggerated as it might be. The mob did manage to make its influence felt in labor unions, where its extortion was manifested in many ways. Some of these labor leaders were part of Perk’s City Hall.

Shondor Birns was not a made member of the mob, but a consultant of sorts, a contractor who projected the mob’s will in a no-nonsense manner that required intimidation or even murder. For years, he was known as the enforcer of the numbers games in the black neighborhoods. He also specialized in loansharking.

Another rising criminal figure in town was Danny Greene, an Irishman who at one time ran the longshoremen’s union and gained prominence through his flamboyance and fearlessness. He, Birns, and the mob were on a collision course over money and power.

Numerous bombings and killings rocked the city throughout this period. The mob read Birns’s death as a threat and hired a hit man to kill Greene. In October, 1977, he was killed by a bomb in a suburban parking lot, after visiting his dentist.

Then, in a flurry of events resulting from the capture of Greene’s killer, mob members here and elsewhere fell like dominoes. Now only sepia-toned memories remain, a legacy best experienced over a dish of pasta on Murray Hill.

Ralph Perk’s tenure in City Hall continued to be marked by one awkward incident after another, all of which enlivened the work of the newspaper and television reporters who covered him. The mood of restoration extended into City Hall, where the mayor hired two interior decorators with questionable credentials, who later would end up with unquestionable criminal records.

These decorators, Richard G. Eberling and Obie Henderson, set out to make the Perk administration more exclusive than ethnic, ordering costly appointments, including an expensive toilet for the mayor’s private office. The two also managed to make off with some valuable paintings from City Hall, spiriting them off to a hide-a-way in Tennessee.

The two went on to be tried and convicted of the murder of an elderly woman. Eberling was suspected of killing four others, including his stepfather. There were other miscreants in the Perk administration. One former aide, James Dickerson, celebrated for his educational achievement, combat heroics, and administrative skills, turned out to be a charlatan of the first degree. His resume was pure fiction.

But the city benefited tremendously under Perk from the fact that he was one of the few big city mayors who was Republican while President Richard Nixon was in the White House. Perk took over a cash-strapped city from Stokes and was able to get millions in federal grants to help the city limp along. The city was living on the dole.

It was becoming increasingly evident that the city’s financial woes were rendering it impossible to maintain its status as the dominant political entity in the region.

Because of the nature of Cleveland politics, there was no foresight regarding the need to accept this fact and create the metro government which many were heralding. Two events occurred during the Perk administration to underscore the changing nature of the city.

The city was forced by court action to sell the sewer system to a regional authority in 1972 for $32 million and did the same with its transit system in 1975 for $8.9 million. Despite these harbingers of the need for a regional government, it was business as usual at City Hall, now living off federal grants, the sale of assets, and borrowing.

For those who recalled the remark about the mayor not knowing the “difference between a bond and a note,” the financial state of the city took on a chilling reality that would have consequences in the future.

As Ralph Perk’s image and political currency waned, perhaps the most tempestuous political figure in recent history emerged to command attention and act out his own drama, which would further darken the city’s image and once more make mockery of it in the national news.

Plain Dealer reporters in the late 1960s remember Dennis J. Kucinich as an alert and ambitious copy boy, who absorbed every detail of how the news was made and covered. He listened to the way reporters privately described political figures, not the way their stories appeared in print, thereby gaining insight into the reporting process. There was little that escaped his eye, as he collected copy and chased for coffee.

This education undoubtedly served him well, and when he was elected to City Council in 1969, he positioned himself as a young and refreshing populist, which contrasted with the dissolute nature of the city. In its inaugural issue in 1972, Cleveland Magazine ran a cover story on Kucinich, predicting that he would run for President of the United States, which he later did.

Alert, witty, with the careless energy of youth, and tactical by nature, Kucinich morphed Ralph Perk into the image of an old, tired city, one run by political hacks and self-interested businessmen. He then went on to run against Perk for mayor in 1977, defeating him to become, at 31, the youngest mayor in the city’s history.

Perk left behind a veritable financial mess, fraught with such distress that it threatened the viability of the city’s treasury. To add to the peril was the status of the Municipal Light Plant, forever a political conductor in the community.

The light plant, or Muny Light as it was called then, existed as a competitor of the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company. Proposed by Mayor Tom L. Johnson in 1903, Muny Light was underwritten by the city in an effort to provide cheap electricity for its citizens and to make CEI reduce its rates.

Because it had fallen into disrepair, Muny Light did not produce its own power, but purchased it and paid to have it delivered through power lines owned by CEI. There were several attempts to organize a sale of the Municipal Light plant to CEI, but the vortex of political history—dating back to the height of the progressive movement at the turn of the century—ignited each time the issue was raised.

Kucinich, as municipal Clerk of Courts, had organized a drive that defeated a referendum to sell Muny Light in 1977. He defined the issue perfectly for his mayoralty bid against Perk.

Thus, when he became mayor, Kucinich found himself pitted against CEI and the business community, which contended that part of the city’s financial problems stemmed from the cost of subsidizing Muny Light. Applying pressure to City Hall, six banks which held bonds that had matured, refused to roll them over unless the light plant was sold.

Meanwhile, the Kucinich administration had become an odd collection of youthful exuberance, anti-establishment zealots, and novice bureaucrats, all off on their own. Confusion and confrontation welled out of City Hall, as if it were volcanic, affecting a city bewildered and demoralized.

Then a week before Christmas in 1978, in a symbol of protest, Kucinich held a press conference on the steps of the old Cleveland Trust rotunda at East Ninth Street and Euclid Avenue. He withdrew is personal savings account of $9,200.

At the same time, across town, in a moment that seemed to define the chaos, Kucinich’s youngest brother, Perry, held up a branch of Central National Bank, making off with $1,396. He had been under psychiatric care for years, and was immediately apprehended.

Again a beleaguered Cleveland became the butt of jokes nationally. Locally, an angry movement to recall Kucinich was launched, which he barely survived, winning by 236 votes out of 120,300 cast.

In retrospect, there were no winners in the confrontations between City Hall and the business community. Kucinich destroyed his credibility as mayor and the bankers added to the pall of ridicule that had already gathered over the city. There was more national commentary on the quirky nature of the city. In the midst of default, former mayor candidate James M. Carney mused aloud to a reporter asking why, under the circumstances, would anyone want to do business in Cleveland?

The Muny Light plant continued its tenuous existence and the threat of default was lifted and consigned to the archives of inglorious history.

The last year of another exhausting decade presented yet another election. A defiant and determined Dennis Kucinich stood for reelection and a desperate business community rallied behind George Voinovich, who by now had paid his political dues in an efficient and steadfast fashion, having served as county auditor, county commissioner, and lieutenant governor of Ohio.

Voinovich was counter to Kucinich in almost every way. Conservative in personality as well as politically, he worshiped at the altar of fiscal responsibility, offered the media little fodder and, despite being a Republican, possessed that same allure to ethnic voters that many of his predecessors had. He was charged with another quality, as well. He seemed to be immune to scandal and catastrophic political events. Later in his career, reporters would refer to the Teflon nature of his character.

The 1979 election was non-partisan, with the top two vote-getters in the primary running off in the general election. It was not surprising that Voinovich and Kucinich made the cut. Voinovich’s margin of victory was 11,000 votes.

The decade, painful, mercurial, and paved with foibles, was only months away from ending when a tragedy struck that would severely affect the general election and plunge the city into sadness. Voinovich’s nine-year-old daughter, Molly, on her way back to school after lunch, was struck and killed by a van.

While the Voinovich family mourned, Kucinich ceased campaigning and a moratorium of political activity was observed by both camps. Molly’s death was a somber reality of life, paling the paltriness of politics. The city could feel the hurt. It was a sad moment.

The hiatus clearly hurt Kucinich, who appeared to be fighting for his political life. When the election was over, Voinovich won 94,541 votes to 73,755 for the boy mayor. The decade was done, and none to soon.

The two men who vied to lead the city into the 1980s would take separate but interesting journeys. The town would, too, as it charted a new course that would see the nation doff its cap as Cleveland emerged from its morass of misery to once more be toasted as an admirable American city.


Michael D. Roberts was a reporter for The Plain Dealer in the 1960s and covered many of the events in that decade, including the Vietnam War. He later edited Cleveland Magazine for 17 years.

Read the next chapter: “Cleveland in the 1980s – by Mike Roberts”

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