Before Dennis Kucinich was a national laughingstock, he was a local one. At 31, Kucinich ran a quixotic campaign for mayor of Cleveland, unseating the incumbent Republican mayor in 1977. The Boy Mayor was confrontational from the start: within a year his opponents had mounted a recall election, which Kucinich survived by a razor-thin margin. Meanwhile, the city's debt had grown as industry sputtered and the population shrank. The private Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co., eager to take over the public power company Municipal Light, worked with local banks holding the city's debt to force a sale. But rather than sell the company, Kucinich allowed the city to default on its debt, the first major city to do so. Kucinich lost a reelection campaign in 1979, and the city didn't emerge from default until 1987—although Muny Light, now called Cleveland Public Power, survives.