Jack Kevorkian, the University Medical School alum and physician best known for helping his patients commit suicide, announced yesterday that he will run for Congress this fall.

Kevorkian, 79, has steep competition for Michigan’s 9th Congressional district in the House of Representatives.

He’ll run as an independent against incumbent Republican Joe Knollenberg, who has served as a representative since 1993 and is seeking his ninth term.

Kevorkian became a household name in 1998 when he appeared on CBS’s “60 Minutes” and showed a video of himself assisting in Thomas Youk’s suicide. A Pontiac, Mich., native, Kevorkian was sentenced to 10 to 25 years in 1999 after a Michigan jury found him guilty of second-degree murder for helping Youk commit suicide.

Kevorkian, who claims to have assisted more than 130 patient suicides, was released on parole in June of last year for good behavior.

His candidacy put euthanasia advocacy back into the spotlight yesterday.

“I’m not a politician,” Kevorkian said during his press conference. “My mind is free. So I can say what I think.”

Few believe Kevorkian, who has no prior experience in government, stands a chance to win the congressional seat.

Political Science Prof. Michael Traugott said an independent candidate, especially one “who wants to run a single-issue campaign” like Kevorkian, usually can’t stand up to the Democratic and Republican candidates.

Kevorkian hasn’t given many clear indications of his platform so far but said he would continue to push to legalize euthanasia if elected.

While euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands, Oregon is the only state in the United States that allows it.

For Kevorkian, the biggest obstacle to getting elected may not be a tarred public image or a morally divided state. Instead, it could be his lack of emphasis on economic matters. Julie Petrick, a spokeswoman for Democratic congressional candidate Gary Peters, a former Michigan state senator and commissioner of the Michigan Lottery, said Michigan’s voters want a candidate who will work to fix the economy and bring jobs back to the state.

Voter apathy about euthanasia could be strong enough to keep Kevorkian from making it onto the ballot. So far, he hasn’t collected the 3,000 signatures needed to run.

“I don’t know who would vote for Jack Kevorkian,” said Mike Brownfield, a spokesman for Rep. Knollenberg.

But a lack of discussion about euthanasia doesn’t necessarily mean the public doesn’t care, Traugott said.

“The belief is that most Americans don’t care about this issue,” he said. “That could just be an artifact of not enough questions being asked about this.”

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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