By Frank Swoboda
Washington Post Staff Writer
January 17, 1998
James P. Hoffa said yesterday he was picking
up support from former backers of Teamsters President Ron Carey,
but that he was sticking with his original slate of candidates
in the union's upcoming elections.
Citing what he called a "sea change"
in the political climate within the union since the disqualification
of Carey as a candidate for the union's presidency, Hoffa told
a breakfast meeting with reporters that he was actively seeking
the support of local union leaders who previously backed Carey.
"We're talking to Carey people right now," Hoffa said.
Carey narrowly defeated Hoffa in a reelection
bid in December 1996, but a new election was ordered by the government
after financial irregularities were discovered in the Carey campaign.
Carey subsequently has been disqualified from running in the new
Before Carey's disqualification, U.S. District
Judge David Edelstein ruled that no one who ran in the 1996 election
could switch slates. With Carey now disqualified, however, members
of his team cannot switch to the Hoffa slate or form a new slate
unless Edelstein changes his order.
Federal officials are reviewing their position
on Edelstein's ruling. Other groups representing candidates in
the election are expected to ask Edelstein to modify his ruling.
Ken Paff, leader of Teamsters for a Democratic
Union, has said he would not be willing to support a unity slate
that included Hoffa supporters, and will form a new slate of his
own if Edelstein changes his ruling. TDU is a Detroit-based union
reform group that was instrumental in Carey's elections in 1991
Complicating the political situation is the
fact that federal officials overseeing the Teamsters elections
are now investigating the finances of the Hoffa campaign.
Political handicappers inside the union predict
that if both Hoffa and Carey are disqualified from running in
the new election, there could be as many as four slates of candidates,
which would make it almost impossible to predict a winner in a
union where barely a third of the members vote.
There have been discussions between some
members of Hoffa's slate and those who ran with Carey in the 1996
election about forming a unity slate if Hoffa is disqualified,
in the expectation that Edelstein would be forced to change his
position. But leaders of that movement said yesterday they would
wait until after the election officer rules on Hoffa's campaign
before making any public moves.
Asked if he thought he might be disqualified,
Hoffa said "No. Anything's possible, but I don't foresee
Hoffa said he thought the investigation into
his campaign finances by federal election officer Michael Cherkasky
would be completed by the end of February, a timetable government
sources said they agreed with.
If Hoffa is cleared, he is believed to be
the favorite to win the Teamsters presidency in a government supervised
mail ballot election to be held in the fall. The government hopes
to have the election results certified by the end of the year.
Hoffa said that as far as he was concerned
Carey was "almost a government operative," the reformer
the Justice Department had pinned its hopes on for cleaning up
the union. As a result, he said, "I think the government
is going to encourage someone to run against me."
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company