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Inside Politics

Kucinich a crowd-pleaser at Portland college

He's the candidate who has no chance but does have an alternative view

By Christy Moorehouse
Special to CNN

Editor's Note: Campus Vibe provides student perspectives on the 2004 election from selected colleges across the United States. This week's contributor is Christy Moorehouse, assistant editor at The Bridge, the Portland Community College student newspaper. The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of CNN, its affiliates or Portland Community College.

Kucinich
A keyed up Kucinich speaks on Monday at PCC.
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PORTLAND, Oregon (CNN) -- The audience cheered on Monday as Ohio Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich strode through the crowd on his mission to the microphone to address students at Portland Community College's Sylvania Campus.

"This is the biggest event we've had in this area," said student senator Alina Dumitrasc, as a few hundred students, staff and faculty gathered to hear the dogged presidential hopeful speak at the College Center building.

With less than 24 hours before the end of voting in the Oregon primaries, the opportunity to sway swing voters and secure a healthy turnout had wound down to the last minute.

Although Kucinich doesn't have the votes to get the Democratic nomination for president, he continues to campaign for the people's vote.

"Kucinich doesn't stand a chance of winning [the election]. It's more about a Democratic movement," said Jason Reed, a first year communications major at PCC.

The Sylvania Campus Associated Students of Portland Community College (ASPCC), which sponsored the event, placed unofficial ballot boxes near voter registration cards being peddled from the sidelines.

Dumitrasc, who helped organize the event through her student government post, said having Kucinich on campus "definitely got PCC students motivated. Forty-five people registered to vote, which is good for one event."

"I wasn't a Democrat until Kucinich," said Susan Warncke, who recently left the workforce to return to college. "It's very affirming to have someone who is running for the highest political office actually come to speak to the student body."

Kucinich matched the high level of energy coming from audience members at the crowded afternoon forum.

"He was compelling as a speaker," said Reed. "He addressed students on the same level as himself."

"He's engaging with people and very respectful," said Warncke.

Supporters of presidential hopeful Lyndon LaRouche pressed Kucinich to comment on a document published by the LaRouche campaign. Admitting he hadn't read it, Kucinich thanked them for their energy and commitment to the Democratic Party and asked the audience to join him in congratulating "someone who represents another candidate."

Inclusive speaker

"Kucinich was open to everyone," said Warncke. "You didn't need a ticket. It wasn't blockaded."

Some students and employees stopped in on their way to classes or offices to hear Kucinich speak, while others deliberately took time out of their day for the event.

"Three-quarters of [the students] in the class I had that period skipped to go to it," Reed says smiling. "I was surprised at how many people showed up."

Kucinich speech
The audience at PCC listens to Kucinich on Monday in Portland.

"We are on the verge of a powerful social evolution," Kucinich said, rallying the audience.

Much of this evolution, he said, can be accomplished through peace, civil liberties and fair trade.

"It's a different perspective than the mainstream," said Dumitrasc.

Kucinich's progressive platform includes a national health care system, tuition-free public colleges and universities and public works programs to create new jobs.

"The economy and national health care [are two issues] affecting a lot of PCC students," Reed said.

Reed said having Kucinich on campus "stressed a sense of urgency" to turn in his ballot.

"The last election was decided by a couple thousand votes," Dumitrasc said. "PCC students realize that."


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