CLEVELAND - Dennis Kucinich, a leading voice in the left wing of the Democratic Party, left Congress on Thursday after 16 years but said he wouldn't rule out another run for public office.
After members of the new Congress took office, Kucinich said he's determined to remain a voice for change even if he doesn't have a House vote on Capitol Hill.
"It remains to be seen" if he will run for office again, he told The Associated Press in a phone interview from Washington. "There's no campaign in the offing."
Kucinich said he still has a supply of yellow campaign yard signs in a garage.
The former "boy mayor" of Cleveland and two-time presidential candidate said his plans include speaking and tending to a political action committee created to nurture like-minded progressives.
"I'm going to continue my efforts to reach out to unite people," he said. "I'm making plans right now."
Kucinich, 66, lost last year to U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Toledo in a Democratic primary set up by Republican redistricting.
With a national following among progressives, Kucinich is known for his offbeat, brash style since becoming Cleveland's mayor at age 31. One of his pet projects in Washington called for creating a cabinet-level Department of Peace to address violence in schools, homes, work places and across the nation and world.
Kucinich expressed frustration with the growing financial demands of running for public office and said even congressional races can cost an "obscene" eight figures.
Campaign money makes government "an auction house where the policies go the highest bidder," he said. He said public financing of campaigns would make the nation "a true democracy."
While the new Congress might show some support in that direction, Kucinich said, "The support has to come from grassroots, more than from Washington."
"Let's face it, people in Washington -- and there are a lot of good people here -- they are trapped by this system," he said.
Reflecting on his runs for the White House, where he badly trailed the Democratic primary fields in 2004 and 2008, Kucinich said voters connected with his positions but he found it difficult balancing the time demands of a congressional job and campaigning.
"National health care, peace, job creation, new trade policies, new monetary policies -- these are all things that resonated as well as workers' rights," he said. "Wherever I went, those were at the top of what people were talking about."
Kucinich said the toughest part of his White House campaigns was trying to make major votes in Congress and still campaign.
"A presidential campaign requires a massive amount of attention, time and focus and the obligations of a member of Congress are such that it's very difficult to balance the two," he said.
Kucinich deflected a question on whether he would miss public office, his life's work. "I'm appreciative of the opportunities to serve and I'm excited that I will be able to make contributions in another capacity. What those will be, we'll see," he said.