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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Dennis Kucinch, Joe Cimperman keep cool in Congressional debate

Posted By on Wed, Feb 13, 2008 at 7:44 AM

The battle for Dennis Kucinich’s Congressional seat is in its final stage. Sure, we haven’t even had the primary yet. But unless Republican candidate Jim Trakas can get his name legally changed to Shamus O’Trakas before March, confusing the entire West Side into voting GOP, whoever wins the Democratic nod should win it all. As for Kucinich, the incumbent has made himself more vulnerable by running for President a second time -- after vowing not to -- but he’s still got a loyal bloc of West Side support. Not to mention Sean Penn. ... On Monday, the five candidates -- Kucinich, Councilman Joe Cimperman, North Olmsted Mayor Tom O’Grady, Barbara Anne Ferris, and former reporter Rosemary Palmer -- threw down, debate-style, on a special edition of Bob Conklin’s “In the Spotlight” on Time Warner Cable. The questions Conklin lobbed at the candidates were simple where-do-you-stand queries on issues such as gay marriage and the war. Widely considered to be the two front-runners, Cimperman and Kucinich exchanged few words. In fact, the normally unrestrainable Cimperman seemed reserved, waiting politely for his turn to speak and then rushing through clipped answers. He did accuse Kucinich of being a “part-time Congressman” a few times, but how many times have we heard that? Ferris, meanwhile, harassed Kucinich at every turn, and he bit back. And curmudgeonly veteran O’Grady decided time limits were way overrated, ignoring Conklin’s pleas to let the other candidates speak. But perhaps the most entertaining moment -- if only in its total awkwardness -- happened before the cameras were rolling. Kucinich, never known for reliable attendance, arrived late, and the other four candidates were forced to chit-chat with the same people they’ve been bashing in speeches and to reporters for months. Behold, what passes for small talk among Congressional candidates: Palmer: Joe, I see you’re wearing your flag [indicating the pin on Cimperman’s lapel]. Cimperman: I am. I am. [uncomfortable silence] Cimperman: This is one of my oldest ones. I have a collection. Palmer: [pointing at her own pin] I have one of these that is prettier. But you can’t tell what it is. Fascinating! The debate airs at 8 p.m. on Wednesday on channel 15 in Cleveland, channel 23 in the Akron area. It will be replayed continuously until the primary, on Wednesdays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 1 p.m., and Sundays at 9 p.m. -- Gus Garcia-Roberts

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