by Thomas Burr / The Salt Lake Tribune –
During a brief stop in Salt Lake City two days before the Utah Democratic primary, presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich vowed that if elected he would stop any nuclear tests and work to rid the world of atomic weapons.
Calling Tuesday’s party-run election a referendum on nuclear testing, Kucinich asked voters to check his name to show Utahns oppose tests in the adjacent Nevada desert. Past tests and their fallout have been blamed for cancer throughout the region.
“I want the people of Utah to know that as president of the United States, I will bring an end to all the nuclear testing,” Kucinich said Sunday during a rally at Salt Lake City International Airport. “We will stop the sacrifice of the health and the welfare of the people of Utah and every other state [who] would be affected by the testing of nuclear weapons. This must stop.”
Kucinich, an Ohio congressman who has yet to win any primary or caucus contests, shook hands with supporters and made a short speech to stump for votes before the primary, at which 23 Utah delegates are at stake. He is the only candidate to visit the state in recent months.
During a telephone news conference earlier Sunday, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic front-runner, said he also opposed the resumption of nuclear tests, as proposed by the Bush administration. Kerry said computers could be used for further simulations.
“I have consistently been opposed to the testing,” Kerry told Utah media outlets. “The notion that you have to have domestic ground testing, or any kind of testing beyond simulation, is ridiculous, given the redundancy and the threat level that our redundancy carries compared to any other nation on the planet today.”
Campaign officials for North Carolina Sen. John Edwards said he planned to make himself available to Utah reporters today. His and Kerry’s campaigns have focused on the bigger states in the March 2 “Super Tuesday” primaries that will yield 1,151 delegates.
People in Utah Being Used as ‘Guinea Pigs’
Kucinich, who surrounded himself with children for the rally, told about 40 supporters that if elected he would stop the development of biological and chemical warfare agents in the United States.
He referred to reports saying the Pentagon was quietly setting up four germ labs at Dugway Proving Ground, west of Salt Lake City. “Your state is being used as kind of a guinea pig on all of these tests,” Kucinich said.
Kerry didn’t address that issue Sunday. He attacked President Bush on economic issues, saying Bush is ignoring the outsourcing of jobs to other countries and the increase in deficit spending. “There is nothing conservative or mainstream Republican about the fiscal policies of this administration,” Kerry said.
“Their priority is tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans,” he said. “We should roll back George Bush’s unaffordable tax cuts for the wealthiest people and protect the middle class.”
The Kerry campaign has five national staffers in the state working with local officials to promote the candidate. And Kucinich has recorded a voice message that is being sent to Utahns urging them to vote for him.