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Cynthia Ann McKinney was born in Atlanta, Georgia on March 17, 1955. She went to the University of Southern California, where she earned a B.A. in International Relations, and then got her Masters in Law from the Fletcher School of Law. She worked as an educator until running for the Georgia State Assembly in 1988. She ran for Congress in 1992 and won. During her first five terms in Congress, she served on the Armed Services and International Relations committees. She became well known in the progressive political community as a champion for topics that received little mainstream media attention, from the selling of depleted uranium to what she saw as the threat that electronic voting machines from Diebold posed to American democracy. She is divorced and currently lives in Lithonia, Georgia.

On August 20, 2002, McKinney lost the Georgia Democratic Primary to Denise Majette. She had been the subject of considerable controversy in the previous months especially for her work in organizing an inquiry into the events of 11 September (particularly what the American Government knew before the attacks) and her Pro-Palestinian views. She gained attention regarding the later after a letter she wrote to a Jordanian prince was leaked, which said she agreed that American foreign policy caused 11 September, and then asked him for a campaign contribution. Pro-Israeli government lobbies heavily supported Majette. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported after the election that thousands of Republicans voted in the Democratic primary to oust her, leading to an increase of nearly 22% in the amount of ballots cast.

McKinney returned to Congress in 2004 after Majette decided to run for Senate, replacing outgoing Senator Zell Miller's seat. One of her first acts in the House was to vote against the allotment of Ohio's electoral votes in the November 2004 U.S. Presidential Election. She was similarly very active after Hurricane Katrina in voicing opposition to the Bush Administrations' handling of the disaster.

Her most infamous moment in Congress, and one which arguably led to her November 2006 defeat, was an altercation with a Capital Hill security guard on 29 March 2006. While members of Congress are usually permitted to bypass metal detectors, McKinney was not wearing the lapel pin signifying she had such a privilege. A security guard ran after her, demanding that she return to the security queue, but McKinney refused and responded to the guard by punching him in the chest with a closed fist. This incident garnered quite a bit of commentary from media pundits and those within Congress, with accusations of racism towards McKinney and overly-aggressive behaviour towards the guard being made. Several representatitves, including Chuck Schumer, Senator from New York, came forward to say that they rarely wore the lapel pin, as the guards usually recognised him, leading some to suspect that McKinney's case was one of mistaken identity due to a recent change in hairstyle from her famous braided hair.

In October 2007, McKinney officially filed papers with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to form an exploratory committee to run for President as a candidate of the Green Party. This move came after widespread speculation of her political future, especially after her 2006 Congressional defeat.

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