March 27, 2004
Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich brings his battle for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party to Eugene this weekend, but he's making no bones about his chances of ending up on the party's ticket.
"I have no trouble acknowledging that John Kerry has the number of delegates needed to get the nomination and that the nomination is a fairly settled question," he said from Washington, D.C. "But the direction of the Democratic Party is not a settled question."
Kucinich, a four-term Ohio congressman, is still on the campaign trail because he wants to change that direction by pushing the party back toward what he feels are its progressive roots. He's speaking out strongly against the war in Iraq, calling for affordable health care, pledging to work toward fair trade and seeking restoration of civil liberties by sinking the USA Patriot Act.
He arrived in Oregon on Friday and will hit Eugene on Sunday, sitting for an interview on radio station KLCC at noon and then speaking at Lane Community College in the Center for Meeting and Learning, Rooms 102 to 104 in Building 19.
Kucinich believes that by staying in the race he's giving Democrats a choice and a chance to send a message to party leaders as well as its nominee.
"Let's face it, if my candidacy keeps alive for Democrats nationally the idea that there is a voice inside the Democratic Party for peace, for health care for all, for fair trade, for civil liberties, those things have to be talked about in the presidential campaign," he said. "It's not about the nomination anymore; it's very much about what we stand for as a party. And that's why the campaign becomes critical."
Kucinich said he plans to make a big push in Oregon, a state he believes will be particularly receptive to his message. He's not bashful about mentioning his past connections to the state, noting that in 1982 he was one of two finalists for director of the Emerald People's Utility District, a job that ended up going to Lon Topaz.
He said ever since then he's been an admirer of Oregon's independent spirit and said the state has another chance to lead the nation by supporting his run for president.
"I was just mentioning this to someone yesterday, that there's a good reason why there's a pioneer on top of that state Capitol in Salem. The reason is Oregonians are used to being pioneers in a number of areas," he said. "So I feel my campaign is a really good fit for Oregon."
Kucinich believes strongly that America has been taken in the wrong direction, both at home and internationally. He said President Bush and the Republicans are squandering the national treasury by pouring $200 billion into a war he said was "built on lies."
Securing safety at home means making friends abroad instead of trying to act like the world's policeman, he said.
"The only way we're going to be safe as a nation is to work with the world community," Kucinich said. "That's how we can be safe. But we can't be safe by pretending we can spend more and more and more money on a military buildup."
Kucinich also touts his ability to bring in Democrats, and independents, who might be thinking about voting for Ralph Nader. Those are voters the party will need if it wants to win in November, he said.
The Kerry campaign has not made much effort to counter Kucinich's candidacy.
"John Kerry was always complimentary to him for his steadfast positions," Laura Capps, a Kerry campaign spokeswoman told The Associated Press. She added that Kerry expects Kucinich will help with the ticket in the fall.
Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich will be interviewed Sunday on radio station KLCC (89.7 FM in Eugene, 90.5 FM at the coast) at noon; at 1:30 p.m., he will speak at Lane Community College in the Center for Meeting and Learning, Rooms 102 to 104 in Building 19.