Kucinich Attends Date With Contest Winner

For a Democrat, Dennis Kucinich's (search) approach on a first date was rather conservative Thursday: He greeted her by shaking her hand.

"Nice to meet you," said Gina Marie Santore (search) of New Jersey as the two met for the first time in the lobby of a Holiday Inn. He wore a suit; she, a red sweater.

Kucinich said he was looking forward to eating breakfast with her. The two sat at a booth at the Kansas City Steakhouse restaurant.

Santore, 34, who says she's a lifelong Democrat, won a chance to meet the Democratic presidential hopeful following a contest set up by a New Hampshire political Web site. Nearly 80 others had entered.

The contest for a potential first lady for the Ohio congressman, who has been divorced twice, began at a forum in Manchester last month, when Kucinich was asked what his first lady would either do or be like.

"As a bachelor I get a chance to fantasize about my first lady ... and I certainly want a dynamic, outspoken woman who was fearless in her desire for peace in the world and for universal, single-payer health care and a full employment economy," Kucinich said at the time. "And if you are out there, call me."

Well, she did. Or rather, he called her, after the Web site set up the date. Santore said Kucinich was "very kind, very gentle."

Santore, of Maple Shade, N.J., who has short brown hair and greenish-brown eyes, had a drink at a Concord bar Wednesday night before her big date. She said she works as a confidential aide to the Garden County sheriff in southern New Jersey.

She said she's attracted to Kucinich, 57, because she finds his views "intoxicating."

"I hope that he's fun," Santore said. "I hope there's a lighter side to him."

On Santore's Web site appears the following quote: "There is a saying behind every successful man, there is a strong woman."

James Pindell of Politicsnh.com, who followed through on Kucinich's jesting request for a first lady, said 20,000 people voted in the contest. Santore won a little more than 51 percent of the vote, he said.

Santore said she likes Kucinich's stance on health care (he favors a single-payer universal health-care system (search)) and his plan for the economy.

When asked why she was attracted to Kucinich, Santore said "he's the only single one. ... What am I going to do with the rest?"

The Ohio congressman is known for his far-left leanings and vegan (search) diet.

"I'm not a vegetarian, and I have no problem with someone else who is," Santore said. "He may be a vegan, but as long as he drinks, it's OK."

A long-term future between the two is uncertain. Santore said she lives with her boyfriend, Robert, in New Jersey.

"He's not too sure about all of it," she said of his reaction to her date.