Kucinich returns to City Hall to launch White House bid

By CONNIE MABIN, Associated Press Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - Thirty-four years ago, Dennis Kucinich walked into City Hall a rookie politician with presidential dreams. He returned there to formally announce his bid for the White House.

The liberal four-term congressman who has been steadfast in his opposition to the Iraq war kicked off his presidential bid Monday with a harsh critique of U.S. foreign policy. Kucinich, 57, also stressed his anti-war stance, his opposition to international trade pacts and his support for a single-payer, government-run health care plan.

The City Hall event was hosted by "Dharma & Greg" actress Mimi Kennedy and featured John Lennon music, speeches by local politicians and chants of, "Run, Dennis, Run!"

The self-described urban populist also said he would order a study of reparations for blacks whose ancestors were slaves.

Kucinich (pictured, above) said that if elected president, he would look for nonviolent ways to solve the world's problems, including the Israeli-Palestinian tensions in the Middle East.

"America doesn't have to be and shouldn't have to be the policeman of the world. It gets pretty expensive after a while, and it costs us the loss of lives of the men and women who serve," Kucinich said before leaving his hometown for a three-day tour including stops in Michigan, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Iowa.

It's a long-shot race against eight others seeking the Democratic nomination and a chance to run against President Bush.

But Kucinich has overcome the odds before.

He was drummed out of City Hall in 1978 when Cleveland became the first city since the Great Depression to go into default.

Kucinich re-emerged in 1994 with a successful state Senate run and was elected to Congress in 1996.

Kucinich, the eldest of seven children who once lived in a car parked a mile from City Hall, said he will never forget his roots growing up in a financially strapped family. He told the hooting and hollering crowd that he wants to end the North American Free Trade Agreement that he believes hurts U.S. jobs.

Kucinich began campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination some eight months ago but trails many of his well-established rivals in money and name recognition. He raised $1.7 million during a three-month period ending June 30 and hopes to show an additional $1.5 million when campaign finance reports are filed Wednesday.

"He doesn't have the appeal or the resources. He's just out there on a limb," said Erwin Hargrove, a professor emeritus of political science at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. "I'm sure that he's just trying to make an argument for what he believes in."

Kucinich vowed to appear not only on the presidential ballot but as a candidate seeking re-election to his House seat. He must file for both by Jan. 2, according to the Ohio Secretary of State's office.

"One way or another, come January 2005, I will be taking an oath of office," said Kucinich, who promised to support the Democratic presidential ticket even if it doesn't include him.

Jimmy Friend of Akron sported a blue "Kucinich for president" T-shirt and pin along with his nose ring and tattoos as he applauded the speech.

"Dennis, without being a preacher, brings spiritually into politics," said Friend, 43. "If he's an underdog, that's OK. I'm an underdog, too."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)