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Kerry draws record crowd in Portland 15 August 2004
With a little help from Jon Bon Jovi

Source: Statesman Journal, Salem, Oregon

PORTLAND — Tens of thousands of Oregonians flocked to see Sen. John Kerry at a riverfront park Friday, marking the largest rally yet in the Massachusetts Democrat’s presidential campaign.

Kerry, joined by rock star Jon Bon Jovi, actor Leonardo DiCaprio and Gov. Ted Kulongoski, attracted a rock concert-size crowd of 40,000 to 50,000 during the middle of the work day at Tom McCall Waterfront Park.

It was the largest crowd to attend a political speech in Portland in at least a decade, according to Portland fire officials who monitored the crowd for safety reasons. Other Oregonians watched on local television stations, which broadcast the speech live.

Kerry emphasized environmental and economic themes in his half-hour address, covering much the same ground as his acceptance speech at last month’s Democratic National Convention in Boston.

Fire marshals began turning away people after the grassy park filled to capacity. Thousands settled for nearby streets, the Hawthorne Bridge, and other venues to gain a glimpse of Kerry and celebrity supporters.

“This is definitely an unprecedented crowd,” said Kerry media coordinator Laura Capps.

Kerry’s largest crowd before Friday was the 25,000 to 30,000 who came to see Kerry and running mate John Edwards in Raleigh, North Carolina, she said.

The Portland crowd, along with the 8,000 who came to see Kerry on Thursday in Republican-leaning Medford, amounted to “October crowds in August,” Capps said.

Democratic speakers painted a contrast with President Bush, who spoke a few miles west of Portland in Beaverton at the same time as Kerry, to an invitation-only audience of small-business owners.

“President Bush is behind closed doors,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Portland. “John Kerry will have politics with the people, where it belongs.”

Several speakers talked about environmental issues, particularly Kerry’s pledge to make the United States less dependent on foreign oil by vigorously pursuing alternative and renewable energy.

“I want Americans’ energy future to depend on American ingenuity and creativity, not the Saudi royal family,” Kerry said.

Americans need a president “who doesn’t represent the interests of corporate polluters,” said DiCaprio, best-known for his starring role in the movie “Titanic.”

“Global warning is a reality,” he said in a dig at Bush, who has expressed skepticism about the problem.

Kerry cited new figures showing that average U.S. incomes actually fell in recent years. He contrasted that to rising incomes during the Clinton presidency.

“Twenty years ago, one breadwinner could pay for the mortgage, and could pay for college,” Kerry said. Now it takes two or three people working per household, and that’s often not enough, he said.

Kerry stressed a unity theme, and portrayed President Bush’s talk of family values as empty “slogans.”

“What we really need to talk about is values that unite us as Americans, and help us find a common ground,” Kerry said.

In an appeal to independents and undecided voters, Kerry questioned Bush’s claim to conservatism when it comes to federal spending.

“There’s nothing conservative about running up a deficit as far as the eye can see,” Kerry said.

Jim Rassmann, who credits Kerry with saving his life during a daring swift boat rescue in Vietnam, indirectly attacked a new television ad by other Navy veterans questioning Kerry’s wartime heroics.

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is spending $500,000 to run a television spot accusing Kerry, a decorated veteran, of lying about his military record and being unfit to be commander-in-chief.

When Kerry finished his military duty, said Rassmann, a retiree living in Florence, “...His direct supervisor wrote he was unsurpassed and he was a leader among his peers. That was no lie.”

Bon Jovi said he was saddened by the loss of respect for America that he hears when performing abroad. He blamed that on what he called Bush’s unilateral approach to the war in Iraq and other international issues.

“The world looks at me and says, ‘What happened to America?’” Bon Jovi said.


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