Kucinich doesn’t eat hot dogs — or any meat, for that matter. He’ll settle for dry toast and hot water at the counter, while his BlackBerry rests on a paper napkin. After greeting a couple of patrons, he pays his $4.27 tab and leaves.
This cycle presents a new challenge for Kucinich and Kaptur. How do you introduce yourself to a swath of new voters when your biggest selling point is your tenure in a body with a single-digit approval rating?
Ironically, Kucinich’s best political argument on the trail is that he’s a change agent despite spending the past 40 years in politics.
A month after his 21st birthday, Kucinich ran for city council and narrowly lost by a few hundred votes. Two years later, he won his first race for city council by 16 votes. In 1977, at age 31, Kucinich became known as the “boy mayor” of Cleveland, and then he lost his bid for a second term.
Kucinich has seen tough races. He ran for Congress four times before winning his first term in 1996. After his second bid for president, Kucinich won a tough 2008 primary over a city councilman, with just more than 50 percent of the vote.
But the rules of the game have changed for Kucinich in facing Kaptur, also 65 and the dean of the Ohio delegation. While many of his constituents accepted Kucinich’s unique political personality, he’s now forced to introduce himself to a whole new crowd.
“I’ve come to realize that Congressman Kucinich has largely been confined to a portion of Cuyahoga County,” Kaptur said later that Saturday during her hair style session at Lakewood’s Crazy Mullets salon. “But he hasn’t really represented the coasts. He has a different perspective.”
In Lakewood, just west of Cleveland, the tension between the two ends of the redrawn 9th is palpable. Voters seem to resent having to favor one perspective, or geographic base, over another.
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