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Thursday, March 11, 2004 05:11 pm

Last stop

One of the three Democratic presidential candidates still in the race plans a Springfield stop on Monday, March 15.

U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, will speak at noon until 1 p.m. at the Old State Capitol Plaza. (In case of inclement weather, the candidate will be at the Carnegie Room of Lincoln Library.)

Charles Hershey, a regional co-coordinator of the Kucinich campaign, says a vote for Kucinich is a vote to shape the national debate. "At this point, the primaries have become a referendum on what issues will be important to the Democratic Party," Hershey says.

Hershey supports Kucinich because of the candidate's willingness to confront powerful corporations, a stance Kucinich took early in his political career as mayor of Cleveland.

Kucinich promised Cleveland voters he'd cancel the sale of a public utility, and when he kept his word, Cleveland banks refused to extend credit to the city. In December 1978, the city defaulted on loans. It meant another black eye for the beleaguered industrial city and helped derail Kucinich's political career for more than a decade. Hershey admires the sacrifice Kucinich made. "I find it very unusual to have a politician who's willing to put the public interest even ahead of their public career," Hershey says.

Kucinich advocates a universal single-payer healthcare system to replace the current system, which leaves more than 40 million Americans without health insurance. The candidate also calls for withdrawing from the current NAFTA and WTO trade agreements, and negotiating new bilateral fair trade agreements that include provisions to protect workers. And Kucinich calls for the ending the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq by ceding control of Iraq's assets and reconstruction efforts to the United Nations.

"Kucinich believes if we do that, we will get the United Nations to commit troops for peacekeeping," Hershey says. "As long as the U.S. forces stay there, they're a target."

During the early primaries and caucuses, Kucinich has received only token support. His strongest showing, prior to Tuesday's primaries, was in Minnesota, where he received 16.75 percent of the vote. In his home state of Ohio, he garnered only 9 percent. The other active candidates are U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the expected nominee, and the Rev. Al Sharpton, a civil-rights activist.

For more information on Kucinich, call 217-544-4134 or see www.kucinich.us

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