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Kucinich stokes partisan fires

Election-eve rally draws more than 200 to hear the congressman.

Pledging support for Sen. John Kerry doesn’t mean island progressives aren’t holding their values close.

“I’ll wear my Kucinich T-shirt next to my heart, but on top, I’ll wear my Kerry shirt, to absorb the Kucinich-ness,” said Kat Gjovik before joining about 200 other supporters for a speech by former Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich on Bainbridge Island Saturday.

It was Kucinich’s second well-attended stop on the island in just over a year.

The four-term Ohio Congress­man fought Kerry for his party’s nomination on an anti-war, progressive platform, but came to the island to urge supporters to back his former rival.

“In this election, we will truly chose between war and peace,” Kucinich said in a half-hour speech that both swelled with fiery condemnations and dipped into a well of Zen-like inspiration.

“We must focus in these next three weeks,” he said, pacing among the crowd. “We must put all our intention and all our heart into this. It will impact all that happens afterwards.”

Kucinich urged supporters to knock on doors and dial up like-minded voters to burst ballot boxes with Kerry votes on Nov. 2.

“We’re the ones we’ve been waiting for to transform the country,” he said.

Kucinich blasted President Bush’s record on the environment, jobs, health care and the Iraq War. He cited the recent refusal of troops to transport fuel through hostile territory without armored vehicles.

“He clearly doesn’t care about our troops,” Kucinich said. “He sends them on suicide missions.”

Kucinich called the preoccupation with “a fictional version” of Kerry’s service in Vietnam “pathetic,” urging voters to see through the smokescreen and focus on substantive issues, including a war effort in rapid decline.

Kucinich praised Kerry’s perseverance and “grace under pressure.”

“He never lost his composure in the debates and kept it on a high plane,” he said. “In the course of the debates, he became our president, now we have to make it official.”

But some Kucinich supporters expressed reservations about jumping behind Kerry.

One audience member brought up Ralph Nader, the independent candidate running on a platform more in-line with Kucinich’s own values.

While expressing a “deep respect” for the consumer advocate and former Green Party nominee, Kucinich said Nader’s support is dissipating and that four more years of the Bush administration would be hurt the country.

“One way to protect Nader’s legacy is not to vote for him,” he said. “We have to have the ability to negotiate these contradictions.”

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