Dennis Kucinich has been an iconoclast from his earliest days as boy mayor of Cleveland, when he took on big banks and survived a recall election. On the campaign trail, he's espousing liberal ideas such as fracking and assault weapons bans.
The populist, pugnacious approach has won him admirers throughout his career, which includes Congress, a brief stint in the state legislature and a couple of quixotic presidential campaigns.
But he's also struggled to explain statements and associations that many Democrats might find troubling.
They include his multiple defenses of President Donald Trump, his unwillingness to condemn Syrian dictator Bashir al Assad and his presence on the board of a foundation started by a former Texas congressman who published a racist newsletter.
In Cincinnati in late March, Kucinich was asked about earlier statements questioning the need for a federal investigation into possible ties between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. Kucinich tried to deflect.
"The only thing I’m worried about is Moscow, Ohio," he said, referring to a nearby village. But he insisted that he wasn't talking about foreign policy during the campaign.
It's far from the first time his statements about Trump and Russia and his five-year tenure as a Fox News commentator have come up this year.
Kucinich was a consistent critic on Fox of the Russia investigation, which so far has yielded 19 indictments and four guilty pleas. Those pleas include that of Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, whom Kucinich had earlier called the victim of an intelligence community conspiracy.
Last year, Kucinich went on Fox and dismissed a story about the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in which Trump's son and campaign manager hoped to get damaging information about Democrat Hillary Clinton from a Russian lawyer. It was "a bunch of nothing," Kucinich said.
In a Dispatch interview in January, Kucinich was asked what evidence he had to support his 2017 statement on Fox's "The Sean Hannity Show" that Special Counselcutor Robert Muller’s investigation was evidence of a "deep state" conspiracy against Trump. Kucinich offered only conjecture that didn't relate directly to the investigation.
"It appeared that Donald Trump was going to take a new direction," Kucinich said. "That’s what he promised. But what happened is that these same interest groups intervened and, at one point, they intervened to try to force policy changes. And if you follow these events carefully, they had a certain amount of success moving people around. What the American people care about is getting us out of wars and that’s what Donald Trump, during his campaign, said he was going to do. Well he hasn’t done that because the same apparatus has basically taken control."
Kucinich also has demonstrated a reluctance to criticize Trump that he didn't display toward fellow Democrat Barack Obama when he was president.
Pressed to comment on Trump statements that many have called racist and the president's relentless disparagement of the press, Kucinich said, "In this campaign, it’s very important for myself as a Democrat to have the capacity to bring back to the party those people who voted for Donald Trump because they thought the Democratic Party abandoned them. Those who want to make this primary simply about Donald Trump seem dedicated to lose the general election because once again, Democrats are neglecting to address the concerns of the people: jobs, health care, education, retirement security."
By contrast, when Obama in 2011 ordered the bombing of Libya, Kucinich called that an "impeachable offense." He called for someone to challenge the president in the 2012 Democratic Primary. And in 2013, he joined many Republicans in criticizing the Obama administration over the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Those comments were unwelcome among Obama loyalists.
"Dennis Kucinich spent a lot of President Obama's administration grandstanding," said Jeremy Bird, national field director for Obama's 2012 campaign. "All of that was incredibly unhelpful for the (president's) program."
Kucinich has been considerably more reluctant to criticize Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad, who has been accused of repeatedly using chemical weapons on his own citizens in his county's civil war.
Former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray called out Kucinich at a March 7 Democratic debate over his repeated visits to Assad and Kucinich's unwillingness to condemn the Syrian leader. Kucinich was asked afterward whether he thought Assad was a bad guy.
"My concern is Damascus, Ohio, not Damascus, Syria," he said, this time referring to a tiny community near Alliance in northeast Ohio. He added that he travels the word trying to further the interests of peace.
Pressed twice more for comment on Assad, he finally raised his voice and said, "What’s your interest here? I mean, we’re talking about an election in Ohio. What’s your interest here?"
Kucinich, who acknowledges libertarian leanings, also is an advisory-board member of the Ron Paul Institute, a group started by the former Texas Republican congressman and self-proclaimed libertarian for which it is named. The group's website features articles poo-pooing the Russia investigation, challenging the British government's assertion that Moscow ordered the poisoning of a former Russian spy in England, and questioning American military involvement in Syria.
In the 1980s and '90s, Paul also published a series of newsletters, some of which contained explicitly racist statements. For example, one commentary said the 1992 riots in Los Angeles only ended "when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks." When the national press raised the issue during his 2008 presidential bid, Paul claimed not to know what was in the newsletters even though they bore his name.
For Kucinich, the issue is beside the point.
"Ron Paul and I work together to end wars," he said. "Ron Paul and I worked together to try to stop the Patriot Act. Now do we agree on everything? No."