Kerry stepson visits Portland

Andre Heinz, stepson of John Kerry, stopped at PSU yesterdaymorning for a roundtable meeting with high school and collegenewspaper staffs. The meeting was one of many in Heinz’s energeticoutreach to younger constituents. His sarcastic humor combined withhis enthusiastic support for Kerry and candid, open manner was wellaimed at the young audience.

Heinz, 34, is one of several members of the Heinz/Kerry clanstumping for their father and stepfather.

Well over half of the small room was filled with students fromFranklin and Cleveland High schools’ student papers, meaning thatmost of the eager listeners won’t actually be able to vote in theupcoming election. Despite the fact that they are too young tovote, the self-described journalism and politics enthusiasts ate upHeinz’s friendly, humorous responses to their questions.

When a Franklin student characterized Dick Cheney’s debateposture as defensive, citing his hunching and speaking with handsin front of his mouth, Heinz laughed.

“I think that’s what happens when you spend time in undisclosedlocations underground,” he said.

Heinz spent some time discussing his special area of interest,the environment. He describes his work campaigning for hisstepfather as “a brief hiatus” from his regular job as a consultantfor the Swedish firm Natural Step, which helps clients transitionto protecting the environment by creating cleaner systems.

Heinz had nothing but praise for his stepfather, whom heconsistently referred to as John Kerry. He referred to his own rolein the campaign very modestly, saying, “I got involved because Ihad to do something about what’s going on the past four yearsbesides just be mad. And also because of my connections. I don’twant to presume too much to think that I would be an asset, but tothe extent that they think I’m an asset, I’m glad to help.”

“I don’t know if you know this,” Heinz said, “but John Kerrydoesn’t accept PAC money. Of the money donated to the campaign,most of it has been Internet contributions under $200. And we haveHoward Dean to thank for showing us the way on that.”

He expressed pride that Kerry has consistently taken time torespond to voters’ questions, and criticized the Bushadministration’s practice of appearing before filteredaudiences.

“I know what it’s like to grow up with a silver spoon in mymouth,” Heinz said. “I grew up very wealthy.” He said that, unlikePresident Bush, “I know the dangers of believing your own press.He’s a person who became president because he could be president,not because he should be president.”

He praised students who are active in politics. The 2000election was decided by several hundred votes in Florida. Otherstates had similarly narrow margins, he said, and for that reasonevery vote is important. “The margin in Florida… that’s the sizeof a dorm. Give me three kegs and a DJ and it’ll draw a biggercrowd, I guarantee it.”