- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 19, 2003

ST. LOUIS, Feb. 19 (UPI) — Rep. Richard Gephardt, declaring he's not the "political flavor of the month," Wednesday announced he will seek the Democratic nomination for president — the third Democrat to do so this week.

Appearing before a crowd at Mason Elementary School where he attended classes, the Missouri Democrat criticized the administration's domestic policy, saying he would use his experience "in the highest levels of government" to fight for working families.

"I'm not the political flavor of the month. I'm not the flashiest candidate around," Gephardt said. "But the fight for working families is in my bones. It's where I come from. It's been my life's work."

This is Gephardt's second bid for the nomination. He first ran in 1988 but lost the nomination to former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis.

Gephardt, 62, stressed his humble beginnings.

"My dad was a milk truck driver, a proud member of the Teamsters," Gephardt said. "My mother was a secretary. Neither of my parents finished high school. They didn't have much money. But they saved what they could — $5, $10 a week — so I could get an education and live out my dreams."

Gephardt took the administration to task, saying the nation is at an "economic crossroads" but instead of following the policies that led to the biggest peacetime expansion in history, it instead "has taken us back to the broken policies of the past, the economics of debt and regret: unaffordable tax cuts for the few, zero new jobs, surging unemployment."

The former House Democratic leader pledged to make the armed forces "the best-equipped, best-trained, best-led fighting force in the entire world," ensure homeland security by making sure communities have the means to keep residents safe and secure, provide high-quality healthcare for working Americans, consolidate pension plans, remake the public school system, raise the minimum wage and make the United States energy independent.

"The truth is, it's getting harder to raise a strong family in America," Gephardt said. "There are more and more families where both parents work just to pay the bills; where parents rarely share meals with their own children; where it's a struggle to pass on the right values, to teach simple lessons of discipline and respect, right and wrong.

"A parent shouldn't have to lie awake at night, wondering if a doctor's bill or a mortgage payment is going to break their bank account. A family shouldn't have to worry that a lifetime of retirement savings could be drained away by a single act of corporate crime."

Gephardt became the third Democrat this week to declare his candidacy. On Tuesday, Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich and former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun said they had formed exploratory committees.

Four other candidates previously entered the race: Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts, John Edwards of North Carolina and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. Florida Sen. Bob Graham and Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd also are considering bids.

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