In early December, Dennis Kucinich squared off in an ABC televised debate with nine other Democratic Party candidates. Ted Koppel, the debate's moderator, started the evening off by asking about endorsements. Kucinich, a frank motormouth from Ohio, instantly jumped in, chastising Koppel for not talking about relevant issues like health care and foreign policy. Throughout the night, his unflinching and fiery attacks against Koppel's questions drew applause from the audience as well as other candidates.

A two-termed U.S. Congressman from Ohio, Kucinich is the only candidate to have actually voted against the Iraq War Resolution. Undoubtedly, he is principled. He recently introduced legislation to roll back the Patriot Act. Yet, oddly, he's watched as Dr. Howard Dean continues to earn laurels as the "anti-war candidate," gathering support from progressives and young constituents.

After the televised Kucinich-Koppel battle, ABC yanked its reporters from the candidate's campaign. The network defended the action, claiming they were conserving resources and that Kucinich had no chance of winning. Along with Al Sharpton and Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun, Kucinich trails in the polls.

But, with the first primaries only weeks away, Kucinich remains boyishly optimistic that he can throw a final Hail Mary pass and win the nomination. Recently, the Portland Mercury spoke with the underreported Kucinich.

PM: Do you drink a lot of coffee or are you naturally hyper?

DK: I don't touch coffee. I eat a vegan diet that gives me energy.

You've often corrected the pronunciation of your last name by saying that "it rhymes with spinach." Do you actually like spinach?

Love it. And I'm strong to the finish.

After being labeled the "anti-war candidate" last spring, Dean surged to the front of the pack. Why did Dean earn this label and not you?

At least one reason is that the media chose to promote him. As soon as I got in the race, New York Times chief political correspondent Adam Nagourney began saying that I didn't deserve as much attention as others. Warning of the "potential for complication" in having too many candidates, Nagourney wrote: "Ideally, a sponsor interested in organizing a meaningful debate would like to limit it to, say, the six top-tier candidates. But who decides what top tier means?" To answer his own question, he supplied a soundbite from an academic pundit: "With all due respect, Kucinich and Moseley Braun have no chance of getting the nomination."

From March through May, Nagourney's stories mentioned me only 13 times. Howard Dean was mentioned 111 times. Yet during those months, polls of registered Democrats showed Dean and I running so close that our levels of support were within the margin of error. In other words, the media disparity came first, and the separation in the polls second.

Network TV news coverage was no better or fairer. The April 23 Gallup poll had Dean at five percent and me at three [just after the U.S. military offensive began in Iraq]. From then on, the coverage only got more unbalanced. From June to August, Dean garnered 90 mentions on the evening news, while I received a total of two. By the summer's end, Time magazine had discovered "The Dean Factor," while Joe Klein, its political columnist, labeled me a "vanity" candidate.

We've certainly heard choruses of, "Oh, I'm going to support [Gen. Wesley] Clark because he has the best chance to beat Bush." How do you respond such sentiments?

Fear leads to muddled thinking. Fear has led us down many wrong paths in the past two years. But voting for the candidate most likely to defeat President Bush is exactly the right approach. Vote for the candidate who presents a strong contrast to Bush, who will excite the majority of Americans who typically don't vote, who opposes the occupation of Iraq, opposes leaving HMOs and private insurance companies in control of our health, opposes NAFTA and the WTO, and promises to repeal the "Patriot Act."

You were one of the few congressional reps to vote against the Patriot Act.

Yes, and I've also introduced in Congress the "Benjamin Franklin True Patriot Act," which would repeal several major sections of the law. It would eliminate the Patriot Act's subjective search-and-seizure provision, unwarranted incarcerations, and the authority of federal officials to search our private records without probable cause. The act would restore the fundamental right of attorney-client privilege, revoke various Department of Justice secrecy orders, and repeal provisions harmful to the rights of immigrants.

Benjamin Franklin said: "Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." In eroding our civil liberties, President Bush has taken our freedom while making us no safer, no better protected against terrorism. The "Patriot Act" is not what American patriots fought and died for. As Americans, we cannot allow fear and scare mongering to lead us to a place where we abandon our most precious traditions.

Do you find "speaking your mind" to be a political liability? That holding so tightly to principles can also be considered "stubborn" or "unyielding"?

Being unwilling to be bought by corporate interests is definitely a financial liability--but in the minds of voters who don't believe the hype, it's most often a strength. I've been elected to Congress four times with huge majorities in a district that was previously held by a Republican. People who disagree with me on a number of issues vote for me because they can trust me.

What's your view on same-sex marriages?

The right to marry is a basic civil right that must not be violated on the basis of sexual orientation.

Are you willing to compromise any personal beliefs to pick up votes?

No. But it's important to note that I have not always held the same beliefs I currently hold on every issue. I am open to listening to people. Picking up votes is not a dirty practice, but the center of a living democracy.

Are you too far left to be electable?

Why? Because I want to lower people's taxes and cut corporate welfare? I have a record of winning the support of working class voters, swing voters, and so-called Reagan Democrats. There's a spectrum that matters more than the left-right spectrum, and that's the top-down spectrum. I win elections by speaking for the 90 percent in the middle and bottom. I and most Americans want truly universal single-payer health coverage. It's the President and the other candidates who are out of the mainstream.

For more information about the Kucinich campaign, check out or call 232-8201. On Friday, January 10 at 7 pm, Kucinich will "virtually" attend a local fundraiser (via telecast) at the Living Enrichment Center, 29500 SW Graham Ferry Road, Wilsonville. Call 656-5683 for more information.