Dennis John Kucinich (//; born October 8, 1946) is an American politician. A U.S. Representative from Ohio from 1997 to 2013, he was also a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States in 2004 and 2008. He ran for governor of Ohio in the 2018 election, losing in the primary to Richard Cordray.
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Ohio's 10th district
January 3, 1997 – January 3, 2013
|Preceded by||Martin Hoke|
|Succeeded by||Mike Turner|
|Member of the Ohio Senate|
from the 23rd district
January 3, 1995 – January 2, 1997
|Preceded by||Anthony Sinagra|
|Succeeded by||Patrick Sweeney|
|53rd Mayor of Cleveland|
November 14, 1977 – November 6, 1979
|Preceded by||Ralph Perk|
|Succeeded by||George Voinovich|
|Member of the Cleveland City Council |
from Ward 12
August 9, 1983 – December 31, 1985
January 1, 1970 – December 31, 1973
Dennis John Kucinich
October 8, 1946
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
Sandra Lee McCarthy
(m. 1977; div. 1986)
|Education||Case Western Reserve University (BA, MA)|
From 1977 to 1979, Kucinich served as the 53rd mayor of Cleveland, a tumultuous term in which he survived a recall election and was successful in a battle against selling the municipal electric utility before being defeated for reelection by George Voinovich. Due to redistricting following the 2010 state elections, Ohio's 10th congressional district was redrawn in southern Ohio. Kucinich faced Representative Marcy Kaptur in the 2012 race for the U.S. House, Ohio's 9th congressional district having absorbed part of Cuyahoga County. Kaptur defeated Kucinich. In January 2013, he became a contributor on the Fox News Channel appearing on programs such as The O'Reilly Factor. Kucinich was also an unsuccessful primary candidate in the 2021 Cleveland mayoral election.
Early life and education
Kucinich was born in Cleveland's West Side Tremont neighborhood, the oldest of the seven children of Virginia (née Norris) and Frank J. Kucinich. His father, a truck driver, was of Croat ancestry; his Irish American mother was a homemaker. Growing up, his family moved 21 times and Dennis was often charged with the responsibility of finding apartments they could afford.
Kucinich graduated from St. John Cantius High School in 1965. He attended Cleveland State University from 1967 to 1970. In 1973, he graduated from Case Western Reserve University with both a Bachelor and a Master of Arts degree in speech and communication.
Early political career
Kucinich's political career began in 1967 when he ran unsuccessfully for office. In 1969, he was elected to the Cleveland City Council at the age of 23. In 1972, Kucinich ran for the U.S. House of Representatives, losing narrowly to incumbent Republican William E. Minshall Jr. After Minshall's retirement in 1974 Kucinich sought the seat again, this time failing to get the Democratic nomination, which went to Ronald M. Mottl. Kucinich ran as an Independent candidate in the general election, placing third with about 30% of the vote. In 1975, Kucinich became clerk of the municipal court in Cleveland and served in that position for two years.
Kucinich was elected mayor of Cleveland in 1977 and served in that position until 1979. At age 31, he was the youngest mayor of a major city in the United States, earning him the nickname "the boy mayor of Cleveland". Kucinich's tenure as mayor is often regarded as one of the most tumultuous in Cleveland's history.
After Kucinich refused to sell Municipal Light (now Cleveland Public Power), Cleveland's publicly owned electric utility, the Cleveland mafia sought to murder him in a contract killing.[why?] A hit man from Maryland planned to shoot him in the head during the Columbus Day Parade, but the plot fell apart when Kucinich was hospitalized and missed the event. When the city fell into default shortly thereafter, the mafia leaders called off the contract killer.
The Cleveland Trust Company suddenly required all the city's debts be paid in full, forcing the city into default, after news of Kucinich's refusal to sell the city utility. For years, these debts were routinely rolled over, pending future payment, until Kucinich's announcement was made public. In 1998, the Cleveland City Council honored him for having had the "courage and foresight" to stand up to the banks, which saved the city an estimated $195 million between 1985 and 1995.
After losing his reelection bid for mayor to George Voinovich in 1979, Kucinich initially kept a low profile in Cleveland politics. He criticized a tax referendum Voinovich proposed in 1980, which voters eventually approved. He also struggled to find employment and moved to Los Angeles, where he stayed with a friend, actress Shirley MacLaine. For the next three years, Kucinich worked as a radio talk-show host, lecturer, and consultant. It was a difficult period for him financially. Without a steady paycheck, Kucinich fell behind in his mortgage payments, nearly lost his house in Cleveland, and borrowed money from friends, including MacLaine, to keep it. On his 1982 income tax return, Kucinich reported an income of $38. Of this period, Kucinich has said, "When I was growing up in Cleveland, my early experience conditioned me to hang in there and not to quit... It's one thing to experience that as a child, but when you have to as an adult, it has a way to remind you how difficult things can be. You understand what people go through."
In 1982, Kucinich moved back to Cleveland and ran for Secretary of State; he lost the Democratic primary to Sherrod Brown. In 1983, Kucinich won a special election to fill the seat of a Cleveland city councilman who had died. His brother, Gary Kucinich, was also a councilman at the time.
In 1985, there was some speculation that Kucinich might run for mayor again. Instead, his brother Gary ran against (and lost to) the incumbent Voinovich. Kucinich, meanwhile, gave up his council position to run for governor of Ohio as an independent against Richard Celeste, but later withdrew from the race. After this, Kucinich, in his own words "on a quest for meaning," lived quietly in New Mexico until 1994, when he won a seat in the Ohio State Senate.
House of Representatives
In 1996, Kucinich was elected to represent Ohio's 10th district in the U.S. House of Representatives, defeating two-term Republican incumbent Martin Hoke by three percentage points. He never faced another general election contest that close and was reelected seven times.
- Committee on Education and the Workforce
- Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
Kucinich was one of the 31 House Democrats who voted to not count the 20 electoral votes from Ohio in the 2004 presidential election, despite Republican President George Bush winning the state by 118,457 votes.
Domestic policy voting record
Although his voting record is not always in line with that of the Democratic Party, on March 17, 2010, after being courted by President Barack Obama, his wife and others, Kucinich reluctantly agreed to vote with his colleagues for the Affordable Care Act without a public option component.
Kucinich criticized the flag-burning amendment and voted against the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. His congressional voting record was strongly anti-abortion, although he has noted that he never supported a constitutional amendment prohibiting abortion altogether. In 2003, however, he began describing himself as pro-abortion rights and said he had shifted away from his earlier position. Press releases indicated that he supported abortion rights, ending abstinence-only sex education and increasing the use of contraception to make abortion "less necessary" over time. His voting record since 2003 received mixed ratings from abortion rights groups.
Kucinich was criticized during his 2004 campaign for changing his stance on the issue of abortion. His explanation was "I've always worked to make abortions less necessary, through sex education and birth control. But the direction that Congress has taken, increasingly, is to make it impossible for women to be able to have an abortion if they need to protect their health. So when I saw the direction taken, it finally came to the point where I understood that women will not be truly free unless they have the right to choose."
On December 10, 2003, the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) announced the removal of its correspondents from the campaigns of Kucinich, Carol Moseley Braun and Al Sharpton. Previously critical of the limited coverage given his campaign, Kucinich characterized ABC's decision as an example of media companies' power to shape campaigns by choosing which candidates to cover and questioned its timing, coming immediately after the debate. ABC News, while stating its commitment to give coverage to a wide range of candidates, argued that focusing more of its "finite resources" on the candidates most likely to win would best serve the public.
In the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination race, national polls consistently showed Kucinich's support in single digits. In the Iowa caucuses, he finished fifth, receiving about 1% of the state delegates, far below the 15% threshold for receiving national delegates. He performed similarly in the New Hampshire primary, placing sixth among the seven candidates with 1% of the vote. In the Mini-Tuesday primaries, he finished near the bottom in most states. His best performance was in New Mexico, where he received over 5% of the vote but still no delegates. Kucinich's best showing in any Democratic contest was in the February 24 Hawaii caucus, in which he won 31% of caucus participants, finishing second behind Senator John Kerry and winning Maui County, the only county Kucinich won in either of his presidential campaigns. He also had a double-digit showing in Maine on February 8, receiving 16% percent in the state's caucus. On Super Tuesday, March 2, Kucinich had another strong showing in the Minnesota caucus, receiving 17% of the vote. In Ohio, he received 9%. Kucinich campaigned heavily in Oregon, spending 30 days there during the two months leading up to the state's May 18 primary. He continued his campaign because "the future direction of the Democratic Party has not yet been determined" and chose to focus on Oregon "because of its progressive tradition and its pioneering spirit." He won 16% of the vote.
Even after Kerry won enough delegates to secure the nomination, Kucinich continued to campaign until just before the convention, citing an effort to help shape the agenda of the Democratic Party. He was the last candidate to end his campaign. He endorsed Kerry on July 22, four days before the start of the Democratic National Convention.
On December 11, 2006, in a speech at Cleveland City Hall, Kucinich announced he would seek the Democratic nomination for president in 2008.
At an October 2007 debate, NBC's Tim Russert cited a passage from a book by Shirley MacLaine in which she writes that Kucinich had seen a UFO. Asked if it was true, Kucinich confirmed it. In November 2007, Larry Flynt hosted a fundraiser for Kucinich that drew criticism from Flynt's detractors. Campaign representatives declined to comment. Kucinich was endorsed by author Gore Vidal and actor Viggo Mortensen. In January 2008, he asked for a New Hampshire recount based on alleged discrepancies between the machine-counted ballots and the hand-counted ballots. He stated that he wanted to make sure "100% of the voters had 100% of their votes counted."
In January 2008, Kucinich was excluded from a Democratic presidential debate on MSNBC due to his poor showing in the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries. A ruling that the debate could not go ahead without him was overturned on appeal. Later that month, Kucinich dropped out of the race and did not endorse any other candidate. He endorsed Barack Obama after Obama won the nomination.
Until 2012, Kucinich was reelected to Congress by big margins in his strongly Democratic-leaning districts.
Kucinich defeated a Democratic primary challenger by a wide margin and defeated Republican Mike Dovilla in the general election with 66% of the vote.
His opponents included Cleveland City Councilman Joe Cimperman and North Olmsted Mayor Thomas O'Grady. In February 2008, Kucinich raised around $50,000 compared to Cimperman's $228,000, but through a YouTube fund-raising campaign he managed to raise $700,000, surpassing Cimperman's $487,000.
Cimperman, who was endorsed by the mayor of Cleveland and The Plain Dealer, criticized Kucinich for focusing too much on campaigning for president and not on the district. Kucinich accused Cimperman of representing corporate and real estate interests. Cimperman described Kucinich as an absentee congressman who failed to pass any major legislative initiatives in his 12-year House career. In an interview, Cimperman said he was tired of Kucinich and Cleveland being joke fodder for late-night talk-show hosts, saying: "It's time for him to go home." A Cimperman campaign ad stated that Kucinich had missed over 300 votes, but the actual number was 139. It was also suggested that Kucinich's calls for universal health care and an immediate withdrawal from Iraq made him a thorn in the side of the Democrats' congressional leadership, as well as his refusal to pledge to support the eventual presidential nominee, which he later reconsidered.
Kucinich took part in a debate with the other primary challengers. Barbara Ferris criticized him for not bringing as much money back to the district as other area legislators and authoring just one bill that passed during his 12 years in Congress. Kucinich responded: "It was a Republican Congress and there weren't many Democrats passing meaningful legislation during a Republican Congress." He won the primary with 68,156 votes out of 135,589 cast, beating Cimperman 52% to 33%.
Kucinich defeated Republican nominee Peter J. Corrigan and Libertarian nominee Jeff Goggins in the November 2 general election with 101,343 votes, 53.1% of those cast.
Redistricting after the 2010 census eliminated Kucinich's district. The new map shifted the bulk of Kucinich's territory, including his home, to the Toledo-based 9th District, represented since 1983 by fellow Democrat Marcy Kaptur. Kucinich had been endorsed by another House member, Barney Frank of Massachusetts. The two competed in the Democratic primary on March 6, with Graham Veysey, a small-business owner from Cleveland, also on the ballot. Kaptur won the primary with 56% of the vote to Kucinich's 40%. The redrawn district contained roughly 60% of Kaptur's former territory.
Kucinich had been mentioned frequently as a possible 2012 candidate for Congress in Washington's newly created 10th district, but he decided to retire from Congress when his term ended in January 2013.
2018 Gubernatorial Campaign
In January 2018, Kucinich announced his candidacy for governor of Ohio in the 2018 election. He was criticized for working as a Fox News contributor. Tara Samples, an Akron city councilwoman, was his running mate. Our Revolution, a grassroots progressive organization founded by Bernie Sanders, endorsed Kucinich, but Sanders did not. Kucinich lost the primary to Richard Cordray, 62.3% to 22.9%.
2021 Cleveland Mayor Campaign
In December 2020, Kucinich announced his candidacy for Cleveland Mayor in the 2021 election. Although seen as a likely candidate to qualify in the 7-way nonpartisan primary for one of the two runoff spots, Kucinich finished in third place with 16.54%.
In January 2013, Kucinich joined Fox News Channel as a regular contributor. He appeared on The O'Reilly Factor and other Fox News shows. Kucinich quit Fox News in January 2018 as he announced plans to run for governor. Since running for governor, Kucinich has reappeared on the network, in 2019 discussing Democratic primary debates, and has appeared on Larry King's PoliticKING program, speaking against the Democrats' push to impeach President Trump.
After being elected to Congress in 1996, Kucinich began to position himself on the left. Based on his voting record in Congress, the American Conservative Union (ACU) gave Kucinich a conservative rating of 9.73%, and for 2008, the liberal Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) gave him a liberal rating of 95%. He was often regarded as one of the most liberal members of the United States House of Representatives. Describing his views in the 2008 Democratic Party presidential primaries, he said, "I'm from the universal-health-care wing of the Democratic Party. I'm from the Roe v. Wade-litmus-test wing of the Democratic Party. I'm from the abolish-the-death-penalty wing of the Democratic Party."
Until 2002, Kucinich's voting record was strongly anti-abortion, but he maintained a pro-abortion rights stance thereafter. In 1996, he was quoted as saying that "life begins at conception", and he voted in favor of banning partial birth abortion and preventing the transport of minors to undergo abortion procedures. He said in a 2003 interview that he had a "journey" on the abortion issue that "caused me to break from a voting record that had not been pro-choice".
Attempted impeachment of George W. Bush
On June 10, 2008, Kucinich introduced 35 articles of impeachment against President George W. Bush on the floor of the House of Representatives. On June 11, the resolution was referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
Calling it "a sworn duty" of Congress to act, co-sponsor Robert Wexler said, "President Bush deliberately created a massive propaganda campaign to sell the war in Iraq to the American people and the charges detailed in this impeachment resolution indicate an unprecedented abuse of executive power." On July 10, 2008, Kucinich introduced an additional article of impeachment accusing Bush of misleading Congress into war. On July 14, 2008 Kucinich introduced a new resolution of impeachment against Bush, charging him with manufacturing evidence to sway public opinion in favor of the war in Iraq. This resolution was also sent to the judiciary committee.
Attempted impeachment of Dick Cheney
On April 17, 2007, Kucinich sent a letter to his Democratic colleagues saying that he planned to file impeachment proceedings against Dick Cheney, then Vice President of the United States. Kucinich planned to introduce the impeachment articles on April 24, 2007, but in light of Cheney's visit to his doctor for an inspection of a blood clot, Kucinich postponed the press conference "until the vice president's condition is clarified."
Kucinich held a press conference on April 24, 2007, revealing House Resolution 333 and the three articles of impeachment against Cheney. He charged Cheney with manipulating the evidence of Iraq's weapons program, deceiving the nation about Iraq's connection to al-Qaeda, and threatening aggression against Iran in violation of the United Nations charter. Kucinich opened his press conference by quoting from the Declaration of Independence, and said, "I believe the Vice President's conduct of office has been destructive to the founding purposes of our nation. Today, I have introduced House Resolution 333, Articles of Impeachment Relating to Vice President Richard B. Cheney. I do so in defense of the rights of the American people to have a government that is honest and peaceful."
On November 6, 2007, Kucinich used special parliamentary procedure and moved for a vote on impeaching Cheney. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and House Speaker Pelosi opposed the measure and stood by previous comments that "impeachment is not on our agenda", and they initially moved to table the bill. When that attempt failed, Hoyer moved to refer the bill to the House Judiciary Committee. That motion succeeded.
During his 2004 presidential campaign, Kucinich expressed support for a drug policy that "sets reasonable boundaries for marijuana use by establishing guidelines similar to those already in place for alcohol". He stated: "Most marijuana users do so responsibly, in a safe, recreational context. These people lead normal, productive lives–pursuing careers, raising families and participating in civic life." Kucinich also released a detailed plan for cannabis policy reform during his 2018 campaign for Ohio governor.
Kucinich has opposed the USA PATRIOT Act since its inception. He voted against the act in 2001, and against its renewal in 2006. He voted for an amendment to the constitution outlawing flag burning and desecration, but later took the opposite stance, voting against a similar amendment in 2005.
Kucinich has praised and defended President Donald Trump in Fox News appearances. He praised Trump's inaugural speech, calling it "GREAT" and a "message of unity"; others characterized the speech as dark and "white nationalist".
According to The Washington Post, Kucinich "was a rare left-wing voice attacking 'the deep state' for undermining the president." On Sean Hannity's show, Kucinich said he believed that a deep state intelligence community worked against Trump and that it was "very dangerous to America", "a threat to our republic" and "a clear and present danger to our way of life." In February 2017, Kucinich defended Michael Flynn, saying that the intelligence community had treated him unfairly; in December 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. Kucinich defended Trump's claims that he was being wiretapped, saying that he himself had been wiretapped. He also defended Trump's efforts to improve relations with Russia.
Kucinich criticized some House Democrats for attempting to start impeachment proceedings against Trump. He said, "The Democratic Party had best be identified with something more than impeachment." He said that efforts to assess Trump's mental and physical fitness to be president were "destroying the party as an effective opposition."
Environment and energy
As mayor of Cleveland, Kucinich favored the city's existing Municipal Light System and opposed construction of the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Plant and Perry Nuclear Power Plant on Lake Erie. He opposed a planned regional radioactive waste dump, and has long advocated renewable energy and efficient energy use.
Kucinich was involved in efforts to bring back the Fairness Doctrine, requiring radio stations to give liberal and conservative points of view equal time, which he and other critics of talk radio argue is not presently the case. Fellow Democrat Maurice Hichney, Vermont's independent Senator Bernie Sanders, and others have joined him in this effort. Conservatives have criticized these plans, alleging that what they believe to be a liberal-dominated Hollywood, academia, new media, and mainstream media would not be subject to these regulations.
Military intervention in Libya
Kucinich objected to the 2011 military intervention in Libya missile strikes and suggested they were impeachable offenses. He also asked why Democratic leaders didn't object when Obama told them of his plan for US participation in enforcing the Libyan no-fly zone. He said Obama's action in Libya was "a grave decision that cannot be made by the president alone", and that failing to first seek Congress's approval was unconstitutional.
On August 31, Al Jazeera reported that a document had been found in the Libyan intelligence agency's headquarters that according to the author appeared to be a summary of a conversation between Kucinich and an intermediary for Saif al-Islam Gaddafi in which Kucinich asks for information about the anti-Gaddafi National Transitional Council (NTC), possible links between it and al-Qaeda, and evidence of corruption, to lobby US lawmakers to put an end to NATO airstrikes and suspend their support for the NTC. It also listed information necessary to defend al-Islam against International Criminal Court war crimes charges. Kucinich defended himself in a message to The Atlantic Wire, saying that the document was simply a summary of Kucinich's public positions on the Libyan campaign by a Libyan bureaucrat who never consulted Kucinich. "Al Jazeera found a document written by a Libyan bureaucrat to other Libyan bureaucrats. All it proves is that the Libyans were reading The Washington Post... Any implication I was doing anything other than trying to bring an end to an unauthorized war is fiction."
In March 2011, Kucinich criticized the Obama administration's decision to participate in the UN intervention in Libya without Congressional authorization. He also called it an "indisputable fact" that Obama's decision was an impeachable offense since he believes the U.S. Constitution "does not provide for the president to wage war any times he pleases", but he did not introduce a resolution to impeach Obama. In response, Libyan officials invited Kucinich to visit that country on a "peace mission", but he declined, saying that he "could not negotiate on behalf of the administration."
Syria and Bashar al-Assad
Kucinich was criticized for his visit to Syria in 2007 and praise of President Bashar al-Assad on Syrian national TV. He praised Syria for taking in Iraqi refugees. "What most people are not aware of is that Syria has taken in more than 1.5 million Iraqi refugees," Kucinich said. "The Syrian government has actually shown a lot of compassion in keeping its doors open, and being a host for so many refugees."
Kucinich has met with Assad on several occasions. He defended Assad's actions in the Syrian Civil War. Asked how he could defend a war criminal, Kucinich said that the choice was either between letting ISIS take over Syria or "try to stabilize the region and let the people of Syria make their own decisions about who their leaders are going to be". He helped Fox News get an interview with Assad.
In October 2016, Kucinich warned against a prospective United States military intervention against Russia in Syria. He argued that "a concerted effort is being made through fearmongering, propaganda, and lies to prepare our country for a dangerous confrontation, with Russia in Syria" and said that Russia was being demonized as part of a "calculated plan to resurrect a raison d'être for stone-cold warriors trying to escape from the dustbin of history by evoking the specter of Russian world domination."
Kucinich believes that health care is a "right in a democratic society". He is a critic of the for-profit health insurance and pharmaceutical industries, and is concerned about the large number of uninsured and underinsured in the United States. He contends that if the for-profit insurance system's overhead, such as "stock options, executive salaries, [and] advertising", were used for medically necessary care, there would be enough money in the system to cover everyone at no extra cost.
In July 2009, the House Education and Labor Committee approved an amendment by Kucinich to its version of the unsuccessful America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 by a vote of 27-19, with 14 Democrats and 13 Republicans voting for it. The amendment empowers the Secretary of Health and Human Services to waive the federal law that preempts state law on employee-related health care, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, in response to state requests. It has been speculated that the amendment's bipartisan support was for its appeal to states' rights in supporting progressive legislation. In the past, states attempting to enact single-payer reforms had been sued and stopped under ERISA. It has also been speculated that the law would open up vital new avenues for promoting and implementing a single-payer system, as newly unbound states would show single-payer's success, just as Saskatchewan did for Canada. But the Kucinich Amendment was stripped from the merged House bill. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that it would have violated Obama's promise that Americans who liked their health insurance could keep it.
In March 2010, Kucinich announced that he supported the Affordable Care Act, after previously indicating opposition.
In a Democratic debate during the 2008 Presidential Election, Kucinich and Mike Gravel were the only two candidates to favor lowering the legal drinking age to 18. Kucinich also supported lowering the voting age to 16.
In 2003, Kucinich received the Gandhi Peace Award, an annual award bestowed by the Religious Society of Friends-affiliated organization Promoting Enduring Peace. In 2010, he was awarded the US Peace Prize by the US Peace Memorial Foundation “in recognition of his national leadership to prevent and end wars.”
After Kucinich lost to Marcy Kaptur in the 2012 Democratic primary, Representative Keith Ellison said of Kucinich, "At the end of the day, we're really going to miss Dennis. Dennis is a transformative leader. He stood up and spoke eloquently, passionately about Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran. He was a consistent voice for peace... He almost didn't vote for the health care bill because it wasn't good enough."
Kucinich was baptized a Roman Catholic. He married Sandra Lee McCarthy in 1977; they had a daughter, Jackie, in 1981 and divorced in 1986. He married his third wife, British citizen Elizabeth Harper, on August 21, 2005. They met while Harper was working as an assistant for the Chicago-based American Monetary Institute, which brought her to Kucinich's House of Representatives office for a meeting. Kucinich, a vegan since 1995, is an advocate of veganism, like Elizabeth.
In 2011, Kucinich sued a Capitol Hill cafeteria for damages after a 2008 incident in which he claimed to have suffered a severe injury when he bit into a sandwich and broke a tooth on an olive pit. The broken tooth became infected, and complications led to three surgeries for dental work. The lawsuit, for $150,000 in punitive damages, was settled with the defendant agreeing to pay Kucinich's costs.
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