SOUTHFIELD, Mich. -- Jack Kevorkian, the assisted-suicide advocate who served eight years in prison for second-degree murder, announced Monday he's running for Congress as an independent.
Kevorkian, 79, is jumping into a competitive congressional race, challenging a Republican incumbent for a district in suburban Detroit.
"I'm not a politician," Kevorkian said, adding he is not tied to anybody or anything. "My mind is free. So I can say what I think."
Nicknamed Dr. Death
Although he has been nicknamed "Dr. Death," Kevorkian didn't say much about assisted suicide at his news conference. He alluded to it, though, saying: "What I did was my right."
If elected, he said his main priority will be promoting the little-known Ninth Amendment, which protects rights not explicitly specified elsewhere in the U.S. Constitution. Kevorkian said he interprets it as protecting a person's choice to die through assisted suicide or to avoid wearing a seat belt.
He said the government is tyrannical. "You've been trained to obey it, not fight for it because the tyrant doesn't like that," Kevorkian said.
Kevorkian, a retired pathologist, claims to have helped at least 130 people die from 1990 until 1998.
He said he was proud to serve his prison term for helping Thomas Youk, a 52-year-old Oakland County man with Lou Gehrig's disease, die in 1998. He was convicted of second-degree murder the following year.
Just 10 months removed from prison, Kevorkian said he does not plan to actively raise money but said he will accept it if someone donates to his campaign.
Republican Rep. Joe Knollenberg, who is seeking re-election, ended the year with more than $1 million in his account. Gary Peters, a former state senator and state lottery commissioner who is seeking the Democratic nomination, had more than $360,000 in the bank.
Without money for ads, bumpers stickers and yard signs, Kevorkian plans to hold face-to-face meetings with would-be voters at public libraries throughout the 9th Congressional District in Oakland County.
He must gather 3,000 signatures by July 17 to get his name on the ballot in November. If elected, he said he would serve only one two-year term. Michigan's statewide nonpresidential primaries are on Aug. 5.
Kevorkian said he has voted only once in his life, when his then-lawyer Geoffrey Fieger ran for governor in 1998 as a Democrat.
He blasted the U.S. Supreme Court for not revisiting a ruling that terminally ill people have no constitutional right to doctor-assisted suicide.
"The court is not only corrupt, they're liars," he said.
He also railed against the Iraq War and Guantanamo Bay, calling the U.S. a "criminal nation."
Dealing with Ailments
When asked about his health, Kevorkian said he had recovered fairly well from ailments he had behind bars. But he later said he is dealing with Hepatitis C, temporal arteritis and high-blood pressure.
Disability activists released a statement Monday criticizing Kevorkian, noting that his lawyer had filed appeals for Kevorkian's release in 2003, 2004 and 2005 claiming he had only a year to live.
"The voters deserve proof that Kevorkian will live long enough to serve out a congressional term," said Stephen Drake of Not Dead Yet, a disability rights group that opposes legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide.
The campaign managers for Knollenberg and Peters said it is too early to determine what effect Kevorkian could have on the race. Knollenberg's campaign said he is focused on improving the economy; Peters' campaign said he is focused on bringing change to Oakland County.
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