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Kucinich rallies Minnesota forces
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Minneapolis was Kucinich's seventh stop on a nationwide tour that followed Monday's official announcement that he was entering the race for the Democratic nomination for president. (MPR Photo/Marisa Helms)
Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich brought his presidential campaign kick-off tour to Minneapolis on Tuesday night. About 2,000 supporters gathered at Roosevelt High School, one of 12 stops Kucinich scheduled over three days. Kucinich supporters say their candidate is the only presidential contender who truly represents a change from George W. Bush.

Minneapolis Minn. — The candidate Kucinich arrived a little late, but still energetic, even on his tour's seventh stop. Kucinich bills himself as the most unequivocally anti-war candidate among the Democratic contenders.

As a congressman representing Ohio, Kucinich voted against the Bush administration resolution for war with Iraq. He says he will not vote for the current administration request for $87 billion to fund the operation. And he says, if elected, he would remove U.S. troops from Iraq immediately.

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Image Winona LaDuke

"It is time for the United States to end the occupation of Iraq. No, say 'No' to the $87 billion! It is time for America to rejoin the world community and the cause of peace. It is time for us to get the United Nations in and the U.S. out of Iraq," he said.

Kucinich criticized the Bush adminstration's giving what he called "sweetheart" deals to American companies doing business in Iraq.

He says he recently submitted a proposal to Congress that would give control over Iraq's reconstruction to the U.N. He says the plan would have the U.S. troops home by the new year.

Kucinich also spoke of his idea to create a Department of Peace if he becomes president. He says the department would help make non-violence an organizing principle in society.

Kucinich's speech was at times firey. He ended with an effort to inspire in the crowd that they can change the world.

For someone like Kucinich, (winning) really means getting the issues that are near and dear to his heart and his supporters, out into the mainstream and being discussed.
- Larry Jacobs

"It is here now, that we are the ones who have the opportunity to create the new dream. Come my friends! It's not too late to seek a newer world."

Some high-profile people also spoke at the rally, including Native American activist and former Green Party vice presidential candidate Winona LaDuke.

LaDuke says Kucinich speaks to many of the issues that Greens and progressives care about, including sustainable energy, peace and justice, poverty, and constitutional rights.

"I am well aware that Dennis is not a Green. But, he is Green in his heart," she said.

Also lending support to the candidate at the rally was Minnesota Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, and Senate Majority Leader John Hottinger who joined in by telephone.

The St. Peter DFLer says he first met Kucinich 30 years ago and has followed his career. He says he likes the candidate's criticism of Bush adminstration war plans, his commitment to consumer access to affordable health care, and to education.

"I hope that the people there continue to mushroom and build up the support for Dennis Kucinich, because he can make a real difference next November, and for years afterwards," Hottinger said.

Many attending the rally, including Burt Berlowe of Minneapolis say they believe Kucinich is the only true peace candidate in the race for the Democractic nomination.

"He's the only one that's willing to stand up and take a position on the issues like the war and peace. And he's saying things about our socieyt and about the world you will not hear from any other candidate," Berlowe said.

While Kucinich has some dedicated supporters, he lags behind the other candidates in fundraising and overall voter recognition. Many political observers call him a long shot for the nomination.

University of Minnesota political science professor Larry Jacobs says Dennis Kucinich is a "movement" candidate. He says he's picking up on the banner once held by Paul Wellstone to mobilize disenfranchised voters, and get his progressive ideas out.

"Winning means different things to different candidates," Jacobs said. "For someone like Gephardt or Dean or John Kerry, winning means winning the nomination of the Democratic Party. For someone like Kucinich, it really means getting the issues that are near and dear to his heart and his supporters, out into the mainstream and being discussed."

Kucinich was scheduled to wrap up his 12 state tour with stops in Chicago, St. Louis, and Des Moines, Iowa.

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