Kerry tells crowd of 14,000 in Reno ‘everything that matters is on the ballot’ | NevadaAppeal.com

Kerry tells crowd of 14,000 in Reno ‘everything that matters is on the ballot’

Democratic Presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.,picks up a baby from the crowd at a rally at the Lawlor Events Center at the University of Nevada in Reno, Nev., Friday, Oct. 22, 2004. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Sen. John Kerry told a cheering crowd that filled Lawlor Events Center on Friday the Nov. 2 election is the most important of our lives.

“Everything that matters is on the ballot,” he said, listing Social Security, affordable health care and education, among others. “All of our dreams, the character of our country, is on the ballot Nov. 2.”

Kerry, who opened the event to all “without a loyalty pledge,” told the crowd America can’t afford four more years of George Bush. Area residents filled all but a few scattered seats in the auditorium – an estimated 14,000 people, including numerous college students, union members, seniors and veterans.

It was Kerry’s sixth trip to Nevada this campaign season, but his first to Reno. He has been in Las Vegas five times and intends to visit there again next week in an effort to ensure he gets Nevada’s five electoral votes.

He said Bush is telling the American people he will fix health care, Social Security, the loss of jobs to other countries and make the nation safe. But he said Bush has done none of those things in the past four years.

Instead, he said, Bush dropped the hunt for Osama bin Laden to concentrate on Iraq, opposed extending benefits for unemployed workers, refused to expand the veterans affairs budget to cover all needed benefits, cut after-school programs for children to give the right wing a tax cut and refused to let Medicare negotiate with drug companies.

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Kerry said every time Bush had a choice to make, he sided with the rich and powerful instead of the average American.

“What George Bush is promising you is more of the same,” he said.

Kerry said he has a long history of keeping his promises. He said that includes his promise to Nevadans to stop Yucca Mountain because it hasn’t been proven scientifically safe.

Bush, he charged, “didn’t let truth get in the way” when he told Nevadans he would not approve the project unless it met the scientific test.

“Today, billions of dollars later and decades of research later, the truth is – and I tell the truth – the science doesn’t say its safe,” he said.

“In fact, if you read the reports – which I have done – the scientists have tried to sound the alarm bell again and again and warned people that it is dangerous,” Kerry said.

“It doesn’t make sense to build a nuclear waste site on top of 33 different earthquake faults, 1,000 feet from our drinking water,” he said.

“This administration just turned its back, covered their ears and went about their own way. Nevada knows what George Bush is going to do. You already knew he was going to shove it down your throat,” Kerry said.

“Well, not on my watch. It’s not going to happen,”

The Bush-Cheney campaign said Kerry was misleading Nevadans about Bush’s position in an effort to scare them into supporting his candidacy.

“President Bush has been clear and consistent and forthright with the people of Nevada while John Kerry plays politics with nuclear waste disposal,” campaign spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt said Friday night from Washington D.C.

“This issue requires thoughtful, principled leadership, rather than overt political expediency in an effort to run a one-issue campaign,” she told The Associated Press.

Kerry also charged the president and his handlers are spreading a lie that he plans to increase the mining royalty tax 8 percent.

“I’ll never do that,” he said. “As president, I’m going to work with (U.S. Sen.) Harry Reid to keep mining jobs in Nevada.”

He said Bush has focused mostly on “trying to make you believe there’s only one issue – terror.” He said the president “rushed to war without a plan to win the peace.”

As president, Kerry said he would hunt down and capture or kill terrorists before they attack the U.S.

And while focused on terror, he charged that Bush has let his promises on domestic issues fall by the wayside.

“We need a president of the United States who can do more than one thing at the same time,” he said. “We need to do the job of standing up and fighting for the middle class here at home.”

He promised to “shut the loophole” that lets U.S. companies claim tax breaks while moving jobs overseas. He promised to raise the minimum wage to $7 an hour. He promised a tax cut to the middle class by making the richest Americans pay more. He promised to rebuild relations with America’s allies abroad. He promised to raise the tax credit for child care $1,000 and give a $4,000 tuition tax credit to help people pay for college.

He said he will work to make sure everyone can afford health care.

“And we are going to cover every single child in America – day one, automatic,” he said.

Kerry also promised not to privatize Social Security, which he said would result in a 30-40 percent cut in benefits for those still in the system.

He will work with Congress to bring the deficit back in line, Kerry said, and “put back in place what George Bush took away – it’s called pay as you go.”

Outside the events center, about 100 people with free tickets who couldn’t fit inside listened to the speech on loud speakers.

About 40 protesters who support President Bush rallied on a hill overlooking the arena, waving signs and chanting “Four More Years.” People in line to see Kerry shouted back, “Two More Weeks.”

Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at nevadaappeal@sbcglobal.net or 687-8750. The Associated Press contributed to this report.