Democratic 'Icon of the Left' Dennis Kucinich ousted in Ohio primary fight

March 8, 2012 9:13 am

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WASHINGTON -- Perhaps no other member of Congress has been willing to try to stop a war, to impeach a vice president, to admit seeing a UFO and to run for president twice.

But Democratic Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich has been the political left's patron saint of lost causes. Now, he faces perhaps his toughest crusade: finding his next job.

Mr. Kucinich, 65, lost a nasty primary Tuesday that pitted him against a one-time ally, fellow Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur. Redistricting by the state Legislature all but eliminated Mr. Kucinich's home turf. Even star-studded help -- campaign contributions from actor Warren Beatty and a daylong flurry of Twitter shout-outs from hip-hop legend Russell Simmons -- couldn't save Mr. Kucinich.

Now, the congressman, hailed as an "icon" of the left and a champion of the downtrodden, is a politician without a populace.

"Congress will be a weaker place without his voice," said Vermont independent Sen. Bernard Sanders, who has known Mr. Kucinich for decades. "There is no question Dennis Kucinich has been a unique voice fighting for issues most other politicians would not go near."

The small and hyperkinetic congressman returned Wednesday to the U.S. Capitol to handshakes and slaps on the back, and spent the afternoon casting votes. He said he had no "Plan B" after his defeat, although he had once scouted out running for the U.S. House from Washington state, in case his district was eliminated.

"I'm totally at peace and have a sense of equanimity about it," Mr. Kucinich said in an interview, then paraphrased advice that Merlin reputedly gave King Arthur after a tough match: "The trick is whether you can triumph over victory as well as defeat," Mr. Kucinich said. "I've tried to see both victory and defeat as impostors and not to be too moved by either of them -- and know that each brings new opportunities and new possibilities."

The eight-term congressman could draw snickers from those who viewed his passions -- which included bids to try to stop the Iraq war and to impeach President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, as well as his vegan diet -- as throwbacks to an earlier era. He and his wife, Elizabeth, who married in 2005, adopted three rescue dogs, and his campaign boasts that Mr. Kucinich co-sponsored "every piece of major animal-protection legislation" in Congress.

First Published 2012-03-07 23:31:43

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