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Kucinich Officially Enters Presidential Race

The Ohio congressman uses his announcement speech to stress his antiwar stance.

October 14, 2003|From Associated Press

CLEVELAND — Democrat Dennis J. Kucinich, the liberal four-term congressman who has been steadfast in his opposition to the Iraq war, formally kicked off his presidential campaign Monday with a harsh critique of U.S. foreign policy.

"America cannot put its foot on the accelerator of war and advocate peace," the Ohio lawmaker, who favors a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, told several hundred cheering supporters in the Cleveland City Council chambers.

His candidacy a long shot at best -- Kucinich trails many of his rivals in fund-raising and public opinion polls -- the White House hopeful used the announcement speech to stress his antiwar stance, his opposition to international trade pacts and his support for a single-payer, universal health-care plan.

"Freedom bids us to free ourselves from the shackles of violence," he said. "When peace becomes innermost, it then becomes outermost in our communities and our nation."

Kucinich said that if elected president, he would look for nonviolent ways to solve the world's problems, including Israeli-Palestinian tensions. The self-described urban populist also said he would order a study of reparations for blacks whose ancestors were slaves.

Kucinich called for cutting the Pentagon budget by about 15%, arguing that it would free up billions of dollars without undermining national security.

"It would instead enhance the economic security of our nation," he said.

Kucinich, who has been campaigning for months, made the announcement in his native city, the first stop of a multistate tour that will include Michigan, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Iowa. The speech at City Hall served as a reminder of Kucinich's political triumphs and bitter disappointments.

Elected in 1977, the 31-year-old "boy mayor" guided a city that two years later became the first since the Depression to go into default. He had refused to sell the municipal power company to a private utility -- a move that has since been praised by city officials.

Kucinich faced death threats, and wore a bulletproof vest when he threw out the first ball at a Cleveland Indians game.

He barely survived a recall election but lost his bid for reelection by a landslide. Then, in the 1990s, he made a political comeback, winning a state Senate seat and eventually capturing a U.S. House seat in 1996.

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