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Election 2004

Kucinich backers keeping faith

Despite a lackluster showing, the Ohio Democrat presses on for the presidential nomination and opens a St. Petersburg office.

Published February 16, 2004

ST. PETERSBURG - What's left for Dennis Kucinich for President supporters, who opened a campaign office here Sunday afternoon?

John Kerry is the leader for the Democratic nomination for president, pundits say. And should he stumble, Howard Dean and John Edwards are ready and waiting.

So why is Kucinich, whose high-water mark so far is 2,382 votes in this month's Maine caucuses, opening an office in the 1600 block of 16th St. S in anticipation of the state's March 9 primary?

"There's a strategy," said Ed Helm, 59, a Kucinich supporter and his state delegate coordinator. "He'll win in Ohio and do well in California and New York.

"Victory here is sowing seeds that will reach fruition later."

But some scoreboard watchers say Kucinich's chances wilted a long time ago. His ideas, which include shaving $60-billion from the defense budget and creating a Department of Peace, have drawn the wrath of conservative commentators, who say Kucinich's plans are so out of whack that they think he's an alien.

A New Yorker cartoon even recently trumpeted Kucinich the winner in "The Mars Primary," with 93 percent of the martian vote.

But earthly campaign momentum has eluded him, landing him at the bottom of recent ballot counts.

Kucinich has two convention delegates, compared with Kerry's 567. And even those two can jump ship before the Democratic National Convention this July in Boston.

Local Kucinich supporters remain unfazed.

Sunday, they sang, drank and strategized.

"This guy's got a heart," says Daniel Kahn, 37 of Gulfport. "For all the people who aren't happy with the direction of this country, with Kucinich there's a chance for a real, substantial shift."

Kucinich has said he'll bring U.S. troops home from Iraq in 90 days. He said he supports same-sex marriage and endorses a plan to provide universal health care within 10 years. He opposes capital punishment and would repeal the North American Free Trade Agreement. And he says he won't drop out of the race. Neither will his backers.

"In the primary, you go out and vote your conscience," said David Nicholson, 70, of Sun City Center. "I'm voting for Congressman Kucinich and my conscience will rest easy - whatever happens."

- Aaron Sharockman can be reached at 727 771-4303 or asharockman@

[Last modified February 16, 2004, 01:31:39]

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