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Kerrey endorses Bradley

July 5, 1999
Web posted at: 1:53 p.m. EDT (1753 GMT)

OMAHA, Nebraska (AllPolitics, July 5) -- Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska formally endorsed the Democratic presidential bid of former colleague Bill Bradley at a Monday press conference.

"I believe Bill Bradley's leadership ... is needed in the United States of America in the 21st century," Kerrey said as the two men sat in front of an American flag.

Bradley
Former Sen. Bill Bradley  

Kerrey said some will interpret his endorsement of Bradley as a move against Vice President Al Gore but he said he has "enormous respect and friendship" for Gore.

"It's a choice for me between two friends, a difficult choice for me, but it's a good choice for the country," he said, saying the hard choice between the two represents the good things about the Democratic Party.

Kerrey cited several times Bradley's leadership and decision-making skills and also cited his senatorial experience on issues like Medicare and welfare, and his leadership on complex issues like race.

"I admire the way that he leads," he said.

In his statement at the press conference, Bradley cited the hate-crime shootings over the past weekend in Illinois and Indiana, saying the suspect in the shootings belonged to a group that taught hatred.

"I hope that all leaders in this country will be innovative in trying to find ways to reach out to people to challenge their best instincts as opposed to playing to their worst instincts," Bradley said.

Earlier, at a pancake breakfast, Kerrey said: "Bill has the vision to challenge America to greatness and the integrity to restore the nation's faith in our public institutions."

"With the political instability in the world around us and special concerns here at home, we need a leader like Bill who is not afraid to make the tough decisions," Kerrey said. "He has the steady hand and foresight necessary to be an effective commander in chief."

Kerrey and Bradley will travel together through Iowa later Monday. The Iowa caucuses are the traditional start of the presidential primary season.

Bradley said Kerrey will be a "powerful, positive force in Iowa" after a reporter asked how Bradley will catch up to Gore, who leads in opinion polls in the state.

"I think he's highly respected throughout the state. I think he speaks for the interests of Nebraskans very effectively and many of those interests coincide with the interests of Iowans," he said. "He has a big network of friends and supporters in Iowa, so I think he'll be extremely helpful there."

In response to a question about Iowa voters and their misconceptions of him before he started campaigning, Bradley said that Iowans were learning that he grew up in Crystal City, Missouri.

"I think that when Iowans know where I've come from -- and some of them have even driven down to Crystal City and visited it -- they understand that I come from a place very similar to the places that they come from, the small towns of Iowa, and therefore there is a connection there that I don't think they knew about six months ago," he said.

Bradley -- a former senator from New Jersey who served for 18 years, and an ex-pro basketball star -- is the sole challenger to Gore for the 2000 Democratic presidential nomination. Kerrey jokingly noted why the two men sat at the press conference because sitting lessens the height difference between the two men.

Kerrey, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic nomination in 1992 and mulled a candidacy in 2000 before deciding not to run.

"Bob Kerrey is an American hero," Bradley said. "He is a man with unquestioned conviction and stands out in the Senate as a courageous leader on issues that define our future."

Kerrey
Sen. Bob Kerrey  

The friendship between the two was evident. When Kerrey said he did not regret running for president, Bradley grinned, nudged Kerrey and said he also didn't regret Kerrey's decision as the press and others in the room laughed.

Kerrey's endorsement of Bradley is not a great surprise. He dropped out of the 1992 presidential campaign after faring poorly against the eventual nominee and president, Bill Clinton. Since then, the Nebraska Democrat has been a vocal critic of the administration on several issues.

Kerrey also seriously considered making the 2000 presidential race, but announced last December he would sit it out. One reason he cited was the presence of Bradley in the race, giving Democrats a choice.

Bradley also has received the backing of Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minnesota), another senator who flirted with the idea of running for the White House.

Gore is the current front-runner for the party's nod, according to national surveys. He also has the backing of much of the Democratic Party establishment, including the leaders in both the House and Senate.

Bradley nonetheless has fared well in the money race. So far this year he has raised $11.5 million, compared to Gore's $18 million.

Kerrey, 55, won the Medal of Honor for his service in Vietnam. He first was elected to the Senate in 1988 after serving one term as Nebraska governor. He is up for re-election in 2000.


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