Kucinich frames Ohio governor bid around 'We the People'

JULIE CARR SMYTH
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Former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich speaks during a news conference announcing his run for Ohio governor, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Middleburg Heights, Ohio. Kucinich said he would muster state resources to fight poverty and violence, boost arts and education and expand economic opportunity. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich launched his run for governor Wednesday by pledging to muster state resources to fight poverty and violence, boost arts and education and expand economic opportunity.

The 71-year-old Democrat, who twice ran for president, said he wants to make Ohio's government "subject to the power of 'We the People.'"

He called for creating a dedicated consumer protection office at the state level, establishing a nonprofit utility to oversee broadband development and launching programs to encourage volunteerism and to foster "peaceful communities."

"Does government have the solution to all of society's problems? No. I know all too well where government has become a racket," he said. "I also know well its potential to inspire, to incentivize, to improve the lives of the people on both sides of the aisle."

Kucinich's entry creates a five-way primary among Democrats seeking to succeed Republican Gov. John Kasich, who's term-limited. The field includes former federal consumer watchdog Richard Cordray, Ohio Supreme Court Justice William O'Neill, former state lawmaker Connie Pillich and state Sen. Joe Schiavoni.

Kasich's lieutenant governor, Mary Taylor, faces Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine in the Republican primary.

Many Democrats view Cordray, with former congresswoman Betty Sutton as his running mate, as leading the field and giving Democrats their best chance this fall to seize control of a state controlled at every level by Republicans.

Before serving as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under both Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican President Donald Trump, Cordray was a state treasurer and state attorney general. Sutton was one of two former rivals to leave the race last week and back Cordray's bid.

At a campaign kickoff in Middleburg Heights, Kucinich noted his long history of public service, including being elected Cleveland mayor 40 years ago, serving 16 years in Congress and running twice for president.

"This has been my journey," he said. "It has been one of service, one of integrity, one of a willingness to stand up and speak out, no matter the odds, no matter the power of the interest to be challenged."

He said he could have been a viable gubernatorial contender in 1982 if he hadn't fought as mayor against bankers pushing Cleveland to sell its discount electricity provider.

Instead, refusing the deal left his political career temporarily dead, he said, and it took him 15 years to "make a full political comeback."

"That same person, battle scars and all, is before you today with a wealth of experience, no less ready to stand up, to speak out, to take on corrupt interests on behalf of the people of Ohio," he said.

Kucinich served in Congress from 1997 to 2013, where he became known for championing the needs of union workers and for being a strident opponent of the war in Iraq.

Kucinich followed the announcement with planned campaign stops Wednesday and Thursday in Columbus, Dayton, Cincinnati and Toledo.