50,000 greet Kerry at PDX’s Waterfront Park

Several hundred union members were among a throng of 50,000 people at Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland Aug. 13 to hear Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.

Portland was the last stop in Kerry’s two week, 12-state “Believe in America” tour that started in Boston the day after he accepted the Democratic nomination. He said the Portland crowd was the largest of any of his previous events — and Portland officials believe it is the largest political rally ever held in Oregon. The fire marshal stop admitting people shortly after noon. Hundreds of people — including several dozen union leaders who arrived from a nearby Executive Board and COPE meeting of the Oregon AFL-CIO, couldn’t get in.

Spectators jammed the sidewalks along Southwest Naito Parkway and stood on the Hawthorne Bridge and high-rise office buildings and condos to get a view of the candidate.

Performing before Kerry’s arrival were rock stars John Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora. Arriving with Kerry and his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry, was actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

On the same day, President George W. Bush campaigned before a much smaller — invitation only — group at Southridge High School in Beaverton.

On Aug. 12, Kerry spoke to about 9,000 people at the Jackson County Fairgrounds outside Medford. He also held a “Front Porch Tour” in Springfield, at the home of Jeff and Claire Kronser. Jeff is a firefighter and Clair is an art teacher.

In Portland, Kerry talked about his economic plan that offers tax breaks to help pay for health care premiums, child care and college tuition, paid for by repealing President Bush’s tax cuts for people earning more than $200,000 a year.

“My parents taught me that no matter what kind of privilege you have in life — and I’ve had some — everybody deserves a fair shot,” he said.

Kerry said he would eliminate tax breaks for U.S. firms that export jobs and would establish incentives for companies to create jobs in the United States. He also spoke about strategies to revive the U.S. economy, which has lost 1.8 million private-sector jobs since Bush took office.

Kerry vowed to make prescription drug coverage more affordable by allowing the re-importation of prescription drugs from Canada and ending artificial barriers to generic drug competition.

As president, Kerry said he would protect Social Security from all privatization plans. He also wants to create a College Opportunity Tax credit on up to $4,000 of tuition for every year of college and offer aid to states that keep tuitions down.

Several Democratic politicians from Oregon spoke before Kerry’s arrival. Many joined him on stage. They included U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, U.S. Representatives David Wu and Darlene Hooley, and Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski.

DiCaprio also spoke, followed by singer Bon Jovi and guitarist Richie Sambora, who played “Living on a Prayer” and “Dead or Alive.”

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