October 13, 2003 at 2:52 PM CDT - Updated June 24 at 6:08 AM
Dennis Kucinich, self-described urban populist and liberal four-term congressman, is formally launching his bid for the White House, a long-shot candidacy against eight rivals for the Democratic nomination.
Kucinich, who has been campaigning for months planned to make the announcement Monday in his hometown of Cleveland, the first stop of a 12-state tour that will include Michigan, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Iowa.
"There is a real need for a president who understands the challenges that are facing urban areas," said Kucinich, the eldest of seven children whose financially strapped family lived in 21 apartments, houses and cars before Kucinich turned 18 years old.
The candidate has stressed several themes during his months on the campaign trail and in candidates' debates: his steadfast opposition to the U.S.-led war against Iraq and his call for American troops to return home; his desire to end the North American Free Trade Agreement that he argues costs U.S. jobs and his support for a single-payer, universal health care system.
Chairman of the Progressive Caucus in Congress, Kucinich envisions the creation of a Cabinet-level Department of Peace.
The kickoff speech at Cleveland's City Hall serves 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.
Kucinich faced death threats, and was forced to wear 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 re-election 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.
Kucinich began campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination some eight months ago but trails many of his well-established rivals in fund raising and public opinion polls. 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.
"I don't think he's in the race because he thinks he has a chance to win it," said Dave Rohde, a Michigan State University political science professor. "He's in the race, at the very least, to give public vent to some of his concerns."
Kucinich is likely 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, said Carlo LoParo, spokesman for the Ohio Secretary of State's office.
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