Washington -- Dennis J. Kucinich was 33 when, having been drummed out of the Cleveland
mayor's office, he set out on what he calls his "quest for meaning." His city was in
financial default � the embarrassment of the nation. His political career was in
tatters, his bank account dangerously low. Not even the radio talk shows would hire
So he left the Rust Belt in the winter of 1979, headed west to California and,
eventually, New Mexico, to write and think. There, in the austere beauty of the desert
outside Santa Fe, he sought out a spiritual healer who, he says, led him on a path
toward inner peace. "That," Mr. Kucinich said, "is where I discovered that war is not
Now, after a stunning political comeback that culminated with his election to the House
of Representatives in 1996, Mr. Kucinich � the boy mayor who was so bombastic he fired
his police chief live on the 6 o'clock news � is seeking the White House, on a platform
of "nonviolence as an organizing principle of society." He wants to pull out of Iraq,
sharply reduce the Pentagon budget and establish a cabinet-level Department of Peace.
At 57, he keeps to a strict vegan diet; on a cold December night in Cleveland, Mr.
Kucinich padded about his kitchen in stocking feet � no shoes are allowed in the
Kucinich home � and ate Chinese bean curd for dinner. He is twice divorced but open to
a new relationship, even going so far as to advertise his availability during a
candidates' debate. His campaign manager is a "transformational kinesiologist" � a
practitioner of the healing arts � who has never before worked in politics.
As he hopscotches around the country, delivering speeches that blend the themes of John
Lennon with an ardent defense of the working class, Mr. Kucinich � a slim man at
5-foot-7, 135 pounds � has become the boutique candidate for peace activists and
Hollywood liberals. Willie Nelson and Bonnie Raitt are the headliners of a fund-raiser
concert for him this week. Ed Asner, the actor, likens Mr. Kucinich to "a prophet
speaking the truth."
Yet his poll numbers are in the single digits, and not one member of his own Ohio
Congressional delegation has endorsed him. He has raised $5 million, vastly more than
the Rev. Al Sharpton and Carol Moseley Braun, but a pittance compared to the $40
million raised by Howard Dean.
Still Mr. Kucinich runs, perhaps because that is all he knows how to do. Perhaps it
fulfills his belief, held since boyhood, that the White House is his destiny. Or
perhaps, those who know him say, Mr. Kucinich runs out of a deep-seated desire � forged
as the eldest of seven children in a desperately poor family � to rise above his roots.
"I think he has had to fight a terrible emptiness that many of us have been blessed not
to have," said Tim Hagan, a former Democratic candidate for governor in Ohio who has
known Mr. Kucinich for 30 years. "I think that's what drives him. He is driven by a
sense of affirming to the world that he counts, that his voice should be heard, that he
is somebody to be taken with real seriousness."
That he does not seem to stand a chance does not faze Mr. Kucinich. He is convinced, he
says, that there is "a readiness on the part of the electorate to embrace" his vision
for America, if only they have an opportunity to hear it. No matter that voters outside
the ethnic wards of Cleveland can barely pronounce his Croatian surname. (It is
The candidate says they will learn.
"I make the impossible possible," he told a radio interviewer in Houston, from the
cellphone in his kitchen that cold December night. "That's what I specialize in."
Setting a Goal
St. John Cantius School, a tiny Roman Catholic high school on Cleveland's west side,
has been shuttered for years now, a victim of declining enrollment. Lorene Wolski
Mihalko remembers the first day she saw Dennis Kucinich there, at their freshman
induction ceremony in the fall of 1960, a sprite of a boy delivering "the most dynamic
speech" she had ever heard.
"He looked," Mrs. Mihalko said, "like he was 9 years old."
He was the kind of kid who threw himself into everything. He played basketball, and, at
4-foot-9, 97 pounds, third-string quarterback. ("I was the football," Mr. Kucinich
says.) He was an editor of the school newspaper, a member of the debate team, a
candidate for student council president, one of many races he would lose.
Yet by the time he was a senior, young Dennis Kucinich was declaring he would be
president one day. Once, he told his best friend, Dan Backus, he would be mayor of
Cleveland by the time he was 30. "He always had a plan," Mr. Backus said.
If Mr. Kucinich immersed himself in school, perhaps it was because life at home was so
difficult. His father, Frank, a truck driver, and mother, Virginia, struggled to make
ends meet. By the time he was 17, Mr. Kucinich had lived in 21 places, including an
orphanage, where he and his siblings spent Christmas one year while their mother fought
post-partum depression. Between apartments, the family stayed in a car.
"The car," Mr. Kucinich recalled, "was parked near a Pepsi-Cola bottling plant. My
mother would go down to the store and ask them to heat up a bottle for the baby. We'd
go to a delicatessen and buy processed foods and come back and eat. My dad was trying
to keep working. It was total chaos."
Out of that chaos came a populist streak that has characterized Mr. Kucinich's career
since he first ran for office in 1967 at age 21, taking on a veteran City Council
member. He pulls out his union card � he is a member of the cameramen's union � every
chance he gets. As president, he says, he would withdraw from the North American Free
Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization. He advocates universal health care,
through a single-payer system.
Mr. Kucinich lost that first race. But a decade later in 1977, after a stint as
Cleveland's clerk of courts, Mr. Kucinich's boyhood prediction to Mr. Backus just about
came true. At 31, he became the youngest mayor of any major American city.
The nation knew him as "the boy mayor." But in Cleveland, he was Dennis the Menace,
impetuous to a fault, surrounded by aides who were young and arrogant and ready for a
fight. By August 1978 he had narrowly survived a recall.
"When Dennis would take on a fight, he saw things in terms of good and evil," said
Joseph Tegreene, who served as Mr. Kucinich's finance director and had such a bitter
falling out with his old boss that they did not speak to each other for 15 years.
The blowup that cost Mr. Kucinich his job was a showdown with Cleveland's banks and the
City Council over the city's public utility company, known as Muny Light. The banks,
holding city loans, demanded the mayor sell Muny Light. Mr. Kucinich refused; Cleveland
went into default. In November 1979, voters turned him out of office. Thus began what
the congressman describes as a period of "almost relentless reflection" into the
deepest corners of his life, and why it was so filled with conflict.
"I never had the time to do that before," Mr. Kucinich said. "The people of Cleveland
gave me something I never gave myself: time off."
He began by going to California, where he turned to a friend, Shirley MacLaine, the
actress known for her excursions into the metaphysical. She introduced Mr. Kucinich to
Christine Griscom, a self-described spiritual teacher and healer whose Light Institute
in Galisteo, N.M., promises "multi-incarnational exploration" and "access to your
"Chris is the person who has really worked on matters relating to peace, both inner
peace and peace in the world," Mr. Kucinich said. "I met her and began a series of
discussions on the nature of life, truth, purpose."
That conversation, Ms. Griscom said, continues today; she and Mr. Kucinich have
discussed matters like abortion and Iraq. "He comes to New Mexico to contemplate,
regenerate himself, but he always brings the world with him," Ms. Griscom said. "He
doesn't come here for retreat. Dennis doesn't know what that word means."
His political exile was as difficult personally as it was professionally. His second
marriage (his first had ended in divorce) broke up in 1986, five years after the birth
of his daughter. With a master's degree in communications, Mr. Kucinich supported
himself by lecturing and consulting, but he was desperate to get back into politics.
"But every time I tried," Mr. Kucinich said, "I couldn't win."
A Career Revival His big break came in 1993. A reporter for The Cleveland Plain Dealer
was investigating Mr. Kucinich's decision not to sell Muny Light, and concluded that
the move benefited consumers. Mr. Kucinich was "on a beach in Malibu, watching the
dolphins play," he said, when the reporter called for his comment.
With a light bulb as his logo and the slogan "Because he was right," Mr. Kucinich won
election to the Ohio Senate in 1994, and the United States House in 1996.
After 15 years in the political wilderness, the boy mayor � calmer, less impetuous, as
determined as ever � was back.
On Feb. 17, 2002, Representative Dennis J. Kucinich, Democrat of Ohio, was a featured
speaker at a conference sponsored by the Southern California Americans for Democratic
Action. As co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Mr. Kucinich had made a
name for himself as an outspoken foe of what he sees as the Bush administration's
bellicose foreign policy.
One thousand people packed a hall at the University of Southern California to hear him
attack the war in Afghanistan and the buildup to war in Iraq, the primary antiterrorism
legislation and the treatment of detainees at Guant�namo Bay.
The "prayer for America" speech, as Mr. Kucinich called it, was, like many of his
speeches, long on passion and short on policy specifics. But to people in the hall, it
"It was like someone singing opera," said Judith Bustany, president of Southern
California Americans for Democratic Action.
Soon, peace activists were pressing Mr. Kucinich to run for the White House.
"The response," Mr. Kucinich said, "was something I never could have predicted." He
decided 2004 was his year.
On the Campaign Trail
This is what the Kucinich for president campaign looks like:
The candidate is jammed into the backseat of a little red Honda at 9:30 p.m. on a
bitter cold night in Cleveland, cellphone pressed to his ear, telling yet another radio
interviewer how he is the only candidate who has actually voted against the war in
Iraq. He ends, as he always does, saying "how grateful" he is for the opportunity to
express his views.
On a swing through New Hampshire, Mr. Kucinich is invited to address union members �
whom he calls "brothers and sisters" � at a low-slung wood-paneled hall outside
Manchester. Burly men in union jackets usher him into a holding room while his rival
Howard Dean is rushed to the podium like some kind of rock star. Mr. Kucinich shrugs
off the indignity, saying he came a little ahead of schedule.
It would be easy to dismiss Mr. Kucinich as nothing more than a vanity candidate, to
mock his veganism and his relationship with Shirley MacLaine, and some do. One member
of Congress, a Republican, called him "a flake." A Democrat, more charitably, described
him as a loner, "a solo guy."
But those who know Mr. Kucinich best insist he is a serious man with serious ideas, who
believes with every fiber of his being that it is his obligation, his duty, to offer
his vision for repairing the world.
"He's a good politician, and he knows that in this country, people vote their
pocketbook," said Paul Tipps, a lobbyist in Columbus who has known Mr. Kucinich for
decades. "But that doesn't mean that Dennis has to campaign for their pocketbook. He's
willing to campaign for their hearts and their minds."
There is almost an ascetic quality about Mr. Kucinich; his home, in a forlorn,
working-class section on Cleveland's west side, is so sparsely furnished as to be
practically bare. He appears to have little life outside his work. He had a girlfriend
for eight years, a Cleveland lawyer two decades his junior, who, he said, remains "very
important to me." But the relationship broke off because "the partnership stuff was
just too hard."
Some say Mr. Kucinich runs because there is no reason not to. His campaign has elevated
his name recognition, which could come in handy if he decides to seek the Ohio
governor's office or run for the Senate. Besides that, Mr. Kucinich clearly enjoys
being on the campaign trail and has raised enough money to do so.
"He doesn't need a lot of money," said Jerry Austin, an Ohio Democratic campaign
consultant. "He stays in Motel 6's and takes Southwest Airlines. He'll stay in as long
as he can afford to get from one place to another, because he wants to be heard."
Running, though, has not been without its costs. A longtime opponent of abortion, Mr.
Kucinich now supports Roe v. Wade, a decision he says he reached after consulting with
"the women in my life." That, plus his firm embrace of gay marriage, has put him at
odds with many voters in his largely Roman Catholic district.
On the campaign trail, Mr. Kucinich is constantly asked when he will pull out of the
race. The questions irritate him, and he has lately taken to berating the media for
focusing only on polls and money.
But he still seems aware of the challenge he faces. At a fund-raiser in an Italian
restaurant in Cleveland's downtown, the Ohio primary, in March, was on his mind. He
swept into the room and stood on a chair, delivering a brief speech that, in its
simplicity, perfectly summed up his campaign.
"We are in a position in this room to redirect the future of this country," Mr.
Kucinich said, to much applause.
"But," he added, "we've got to deliver Ohio."
Complete Title: Past Defeat and Personal Quest Shape Long-Shot Kucinich Bid
Author: Sheryl Gay Stolberg
Source: New York Times (NY) January 2, 2004
Related Articles & Web Site:
Dennis Kucinich 2004
Candidate Says Law Should Treat Pot Like Alcohol
Democrat Kucinich Endorses Medical Pot Use
First they ignore you.
Then they laugh at you.
Then they fight you.
Then you win.� Gandhi
Democratic Presidential nominee, Dennis Kucinich, put in writing that as PRESIDENT He
WILL: "DECRIMINALIZE MARIJUANA" -"in favor of a drug policy that sets reasonable
for marijuana use by establishing guidelines similar to those already in place for
News that one of the Democratic candidates -- a sitting member of Congress --
is also calling for an end to marijuana prohibition. This is from Congressman
Kucinich's Web page.
Democratic presidential candidate opposes war on pot by Pete Brady
Cannabis Culture: (22 Dec, 2003)
Courageous congressman Dennis Kucinich needs grassroots help
The Congressman has proposed lifting criminal penalties for most marijuana-related
activities, and although he stops short of recommending full-on legalization of the
herb, he is the only candidate for president who is generating enthusiasm among the
WILLIE NELSON ENDORSES KUCINICH FOR PRESIDENT
From: "g_etzkorn" Wed, 02 Jul 2003
One of the most beloved figures in popular music and culture has endorsed the populist
presidential candidate, Dennis Kucinich.
STATEMENT FROM WILLIE NELSON "I am endorsing Dennis Kucinich for President because he
stands up for heartland Americans who are too often overlooked and unheard. He has
done that his whole political career. Big corporations are well-represented in
Washington, but Dennis Kucinich is a rare Congressman of conscience and bravery who
fights for the unrepresented, much like the late Senator Paul Wellstone. Dennis
champions the environment, peace, individual freedoms privacy, safe food laws and
family farmers. A Kucinich Administration will put the interests of America's organic
family farmers, consumers and environment above the greed of dangerous genetic
engineered and industrial agribusiness.
"I normally do not get too heavily involved in politics, but this is more about getting
involved with America than with politics. I encourage people to learn more about
Dennis Kucinich at
I will be doing all I can to raise his profile with voters. I
plan to do concerts to benefit his campaign."
"It's an honor," commented Rep. Kucinich, "to earn the support of a man who has come
to symbolize the best values of America."
"ON THE ROAD AGAIN": With Willie Nelson's endorsement, momentum continues to build for
our insurgent campaign -- as we increase our support base, our volunteer base, our
endorsements and fundraising.
RALPH NADER, on last night's CNN Crossfire, said "If Dennis Kucinich gets the
nomination, it'll be less reason to have a third-party challenge. He's a very
Dare to dream. We can win this nomination. With so many candidates in the race,
everyone is a long shot, not just us. To see why KUCINICH WILL DEFEAT BUSH, check out
The Grateful Dead
Fri July 4 2003 Willie Nelson's Picnic @ Two River Canyon Amp Austin, TX
Kucinich gets lifted
Kucinich's position on the drug war has made him the subject of this article at
Kucinich was the first Democratic candidate interviewed by link-tv.
The transcript from last Thursday is up at
The interview is front and center on the home page and streaming video is mentioned...
Howard Dean Speaks to MMJ
Wesly Clark - drugwar fascist?
Cancer Changes Lawmaker's Mind on Drug By Steven Walters
Source: Journal Sentinel January 01, 2004
Madison -- After doctors removed his cancerous prostate, Gregg Underheim was frozen by
uncertainty: Had the cancer spread? Would he need chemotherapy and, if so, would the
treatment itself make him miserably ill? Underheim, chairman of the Assembly's Health
Committee and a Republican, began thinking of others who had waged brave and painful
battles with cancer. Some, like his father, had lost the fight.
Read More... http://www.cannabisnews.com/news/thread18075.shtml
Chief Justice Attacks Law as Infringing on Judges
Narco News Reborn By Al Giordano Publisher January 1, 2004
A $30,000 Matching Grant, and a New Model for Authentic Journalism
Happy New Year, kind readers��� I bring good news. Here's the short version:
Narco News will begin publishing again - "reporting on the drug war and democracy from
Latin America" - in a matter of weeks.
You can take that to the bank, literally: Narco News is coming back.
In gratitude to all of you who made this happen, we will shortly be opening the
floodgates of publishing at Narco News to our reliably expanding circle of Authentic
Journalists, volunteers, and donors.
Safe Sacramental Cannabis, Food, Fuel, Fiber, FARM-aceuticals
Hardrug, Booze & Petro-Chem Alternative
Eliminated by Legislation and Administrated Education Depravation!
Do you Yahoo!?
New Yahoo! Photos - easier uploading and sharing.