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Leaving Office, Kucinich Looks Back

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CLEVELAND -- Congressman Dennis Kucinich leaves office next week - knowing that one thing has never changed during a career that has spanned more than forty years.

"I never forget where I came from," Kucinich says.

During a long and wide-ranging interview at FOX 8, Kucinich, 66, spoke more freely about his difficult early life than he normally does.

Asked why he didn't refer to his roots more while in politics, Kucinich says that "everyone has a hard luck story ... people want to know what you're going to do for them."

Kucinich's luck may have been harder than most.

The oldest of seven children, Kucinich says his parents often struggled - especially with their health.

Growing up, his family lived in "21 different places by the time I was 17," he says, "including a couple of cars."

Asked what it's like to sleep in a car as a boy, Kucinich said it was an adventure, but "the only problem is how do you contort your body so you can sleep on the lower floorboard behind the driver's seat, that's all."

That upbringing helped forge a fierce belief in liberal policies - that government should be there to help people who need it.

"Are my sympathies, is my political career, and the choices I make informed by that experience growing up in Cleveland?" he asks rhetorically.  "You bet they are.  Absolutely, that's who I am."

Kucinich was elected to Cleveland City Council in 1969 at the age of 23.

In 1977, at 31, he was elected as the city's so-called "boy mayor" - the youngest person ever to lead a major American city.

Controversy soon followed as the city faced a financial crisis.

Kucinich refused to sell the public power company to CEI - as local banks wanted him to do.

In turn, the banks refused to rollover the city's loans - and Cleveland went into default.

Kucinich has since been praised by City Council for not selling the power company, and he says the decision has saved ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars over the years.

The fight cost him politically. He survived a recall vote, but the following year, in 1979, he lost his re-election bid to a Republican, George Voinovich.

Kucinich would struggle, but would mount a political comeback that culminated with his election to Congress in 1996.

He has served there ever since, and made two aborted runs for President in 2004 and 2008.

Congressional redistricting changed the landscape on Kucinich in 2012.

He lost a Democratic primary to Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur of Toledo.

Kucinich says he plans to stay politically active.

Asked about running again one day for another office, he says "I wouldn't rule it out."