WASHINGTON — Labor Secretary William E. Brock III announced Thursday that he is resigning his Cabinet post to become chairman of Republican Sen. Bob Dole's presidential campaign--a development that Dole called "a home run with the bases loaded."
Brock said at a Labor Department news conference that in making the move, which becomes effective Nov. 1, he will "embark on a new mission, a mission that I believe is critical to the future of this nation, the election of the next President of the United States."
The 56-year-old Brock, a former GOP national chairman who has led the Labor Department since April, 1985, called Dole "a conservative public servant with a demonstrated compassion" and said Dole will aggressively seek backing from organized labor.
Brock becomes the second Cabinet member to resign to work in the Dole campaign, following the Kansas senator's wife, Elizabeth, who quit her post as transportation secretary on Oct. 1. Both are expected to bolster Dole's effort in the South. Elizabeth Hanford Dole is a native of North Carolina and Brock was born in Tennessee.
Administration officials said consideration of possible successors for Brock is only in the preliminary stages. Brock said he is unaware of "anything like a short list."
After making his announcement, Brock appeared with Dole on Capitol Hill and then gave a pep talk to supporters at Dole's campaign headquarters.
Dole, the Senate minority leader, will formally announce his candidacy on Nov. 9.
Asked whether conservative supporters would object to Brock, who is considered a moderate, Dole said: "All I've heard is my conservative friends in the Senate saying, 'Boy, this is a 10-strike.' And it is. It's a home run with the bases loaded."
As a Cabinet member, Brock led a successful battle against conservatives in the Administration, including Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III, who wanted to scale back federal affirmative action programs.
Also, he is credited with improving the Administration's image with labor leaders, and Dole supporters are counting on him to do the same for the candidate, who has been criticized by some union leaders for appearing at a National Right to Work Committee news conference in March.
To Address AFL-CIO
Dole denied Thursday that he is "anti-labor," and Brock agreed, saying: "I don't worry about that (perception). There's not an anti-labor bone in Bob Dole's body."
At the AFL-CIO, spokesman Lorrie McHugh said the 13.1-million-member union welcomes efforts by all candidates to win labor support but said any endorsement depends on the response from "our brothers and sisters" to videotapes of candidates' positions on issues.
McHugh said Brock is still scheduled to address the AFL-CIO's biennial convention Oct. 26-29 in Miami as labor secretary.
Brock, whose new job pits him against Vice President George Bush, one of the other five contenders for the Republican nomination, tread lightly in assessing the ongoing campaign.
He acknowledged that Bush's "very substantial lead" over Dole in most opinion polls means Dole has "a lot of catching up to do." But, citing the Republicans "11th Commandment," Brock said he will not launch sharp attacks against other candidates. "Going after someone you like and respect is just unacceptable to me," he said.
Staff writer David Voreacos contributed to this story.