By STEVEN GREENHOUSE
October 7, 1998
James P. Hoffa, widely considered the front-runner
in the race for the Teamsters presidency, does not intend to participate
in the Oct. 19 candidates' debate scheduled by the court-appointed
officer overseeing the election, the Hoffa campaign announced
Hoffa's campaign manager, Tom Pazzi, said
in a statement that the election officer "is seeking to cooperate
with corporate media giants to catapult Hoffa's opponents into
a name recognition and stature which they, unlike Hoffa, haven't
The two other candidates, Thomas Leedham,
head of the Teamsters' warehouse division, and John Metz, head
of the public employees' division, have told election monitor
Michael Cherkasky that they plan to participate in the debate.
Jeff O'Mara, a spokesman for Cherkasky, said
the debate, to be held at American University in Washington, would
proceed without Hoffa.
Hoffa's refusal to debate represents a reversal
from his position in the 1996 race for the presidency of the International
Brotherhood of Teamsters, when he repeatedly demanded a debate
and often ridiculed the incumbent, Ron Carey, for refusing to
Carey narrowly defeated Hoffa, son of the
famous Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa, but Cherkasky's predecessor
as election monitor invalidated Carey's victory, finding that
he had improperly siphoned more than $700,000 in union money to
help his campaign.
In a telephone interview, Leedham attacked
his opponent's refusal to debate.
"Junior is afraid to debate, and if
he's afraid to take me on in a debate, I wonder where he's going
to find the guts to take on the United Parcel Service or the freight
companies," Leedham said. "He's in a position where
he's afraid to have to defend his shady past and his past connections.
He's afraid that the people will see he has no record and very
little knowledge about the union."
Metz did not reply to a message left on the
answering machine at his campaign headquarters.
Hoffa campaign officials said the current
situation was different from 1996. Hoffa's demand for a debate
then, they said, was warranted because Hoffa and Carey had nearly
equal support and name recognition.
Copyright 1998 The New York Times Company