iOS app Android app More

Dr. Kevorkian Running For Congress

KEN THOMAS   03/12/08 06:00 PM ET   AP

Kevorkian

WASHINGTON — Assisted-suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian plans to run for Congress, complicating a Michigan race that is expected to be among the most competitive in the nation.

The so-called "Dr. Death," who was released from prison last year and remains on parole, will run as a candidate with no party affiliation for a congressional seat representing Detroit's suburbs, an associate said.

"Jack is in great spirits, and he intends to do this. He just hopes for some honesty in government," said Ruth Holmes, Kevorkian's longtime jury consultant.

Kevorkian plans to focus on prison reform and bringing integrity to the government, Holmes said. She said the retired pathologist was not available for an interview and would make a formal announcement next week.

Kevorkian told The Oakland Press of Pontiac, Mich., which first reported his plans on Wednesday, that his campaign was in a "formative stage" and that he was running because "we need some honesty and sincerity instead of corrupt government in Washington."

Holmes said Kevorkian would need to collect 3,000 signatures by mid-July to be placed on the ballot. "That will be very easy for Jack," she predicted.

The Oakland County seat currently is held by Republican Rep. Joe Knollenberg, who is being challenged by Democrat Gary Peters, a former state lottery commissioner who has been highly touted by national party leaders.

Knollenberg, who first was elected in 1992, defeated Democrat Nancy Skinner in 2006 with 51.5 percent of the vote despite outspending her by about 7-to-1. Democrats have targeted the seat.

Both campaigns downplayed Kevorkian's potential role in the race.

Mike Brownfield, Knollenberg's campaign manager, said Kevorkian's campaign "doesn't affect Joe Knollenberg at all. He's going to keep getting things done for Oakland County's families."

Peters spokeswoman Julie Petrick said "anybody has the right to run" but said their campaign was "one of the top races in the country as far as viability and our ability to win here."

While serving in the state Senate, Peters proposed legislation to allow voters to decide whether to make physician-assisted suicide legal for terminally ill patients. The ballot proposal was rejected in 1998, the same year Michigan's law banning assisted suicide took effect.

Oakland County Prosecutor Dave Gorcyca, whose office was responsible for sending Kevorkian to prison, said it was "probably more of a publicity stunt."

"To call attention to himself is standard protocol for Jack when he doesn't have the limelight focused on him. I would not consider his candidacy to be a legitimate one," said Gorcyca.

But Craig Ruff, a senior policy fellow at the Lansing, Mich.-based Public Sector Consultants, said Kevorkian "could play the Nader in this district, denying Peters the seat."

Ruff referenced the 2000 campaign of Ralph Nader, whom many Democrats consider a spoiler for siphoning votes from Al Gore in his razor-thin loss to George W. Bush in Florida.

Ruff said few Republicans would support Kevorkian because of his views on euthanasia but predicted he could pick up a few thousand votes from some Democrats and independents, enough to potentially affect the outcome.

Kevorkian, 79, claims to have helped at least 130 people die from 1990 until 1998 _ the year he was charged in the death of Thomas Youk, a 52-year-old Oakland County man with Lou Gehrig's disease. Kevorkian has promised not to help in any other assisted suicides and could go back to prison if he did.

He was released from prison in June 2007 after serving the minimum of his 10- to 25-year sentence for second-degree murder in Youk's death. He spent eight years and 2 1/2 months behind bars after earning time off for good behavior.

To serve in Congress, the Constitution requires someone to be 25 years old, a U.S. citizen for seven years and to reside in the state they would represent, but it does not prevent a convicted felon from seeking office.

House ethics rules say members who have been convicted of a crime while in office that leads to at least a 2-year sentence should not vote or participate in committee work. But it says a lawmaker's privileges are reinstated if the member is found innocent or re-elected after the conviction.

Kelly Chesney, a spokeswoman for the Michigan secretary of state's office, said state election law only governs legislative and state offices and there is nothing that would prevent Kevorkian from running for federal office.

Michigan allows convicted felons to vote once they've served their sentence.

FOLLOW HUFFPOST POLITICS

Filed by Will Thomas  |