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Kemp Says Campaign Won't Make Issue of California Affirmative Action Initiative

Politics: He rejects advice from state conservatives in refusing to emphasize 'a wedge issue' that they believe would win support.

September 28, 1996|BOB SIPCHEN and JONATHAN PETERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

FILLMORE, Calif. — Rejecting advice from some California conservatives, Republican vice presidential nominee Jack Kemp said Friday that the GOP ticket will not make the anti-affirmative action initiative on the state ballot a major focus of its campaign.

"We are not going to campaign on a wedge issue. We have endorsed CCRI, but as a transition to a new era," Kemp said of the ballot measure, Proposition 209, which is known to its supporters as the California Civil Rights Initiative.

The ballot measure would end most government affirmative action programs. Its supporters argue that an energetic campaign on the issue could rally voters who have been lukewarm to the Republican campaign. But GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole has downplayed the issue consistently, and Kemp, who has been cool to the issue from the outset, made clear that no shift is in the offing.

"We are not going to let this issue tear up California," Kemp said at a breakfast with California political reporters.

Instead, at a photo-opportunity-laden political rally combined with a 60th birthday party for his wife, Joanne Main Kemp, who was born and raised in this small Santa Clara Valley town, Kemp continued his effort to convince minority voters that the GOP has their interests at heart.

He pledged that a Republican administration would double the number of black-owned businesses and cut the minority unemployment rate by at least 50% by the end of the century and promised that his party would offer a series of economic initiatives including a "green line" around urban areas where tax incentives would encourage minority entrepreneurship.

Lamenting that America's capital "is locked up in the hands of white people," Kemp vowed "to remove the barriers that stand in the way of low-income people and particularly minority men and women."

While Kemp campaigned in California, and Dole spent most of the day at his condominium in Bal Harbour, Fla., preparing for an Oct. 6 debate with President Clinton, the Democratic ticket stumped through the South.

An upbeat Clinton sought votes and financing in Texas--a Republican stronghold in recent elections where current polls show him and Dole close.

"If people want to give me a fair shot and look to the future, yes we can carry Texas, because it's right for the American people," Clinton told a noisy outdoor rally in downtown Fort Worth.

Clinton started out his day in East Texas, home to the state's old Democratic establishment and conservative voters who were once fiercely loyal Democrats, but who increasingly have been voting Republican in recent elections.

In the town of Longview, Clinton sought to contrast his record in office with some of the dire predictions made by his critics, such as fears that handgun restrictions under the federal Brady bill would lead to confiscation of guns used for recreation.

"You would have thought I was going to knock on the doors myself and take people's guns away," Clinton said. "Well, guess what? . . . Not a single hunter in Texas has lost their rifle. But 60,000 felons, fugitives and stalkers could not get handguns because of the Brady bill."

In a similar vein, Clinton recalled the fierce opposition to his 1993 deficit-reduction plan that included tax hikes for some households. Since then, the president said, the economy has roared back to life with the help of lower interest rates.

"Four years later we have 10.5 million new jobs--900,000 here in Texas," Clinton said.

Vice President Al Gore began a three-day southern campaign tour with a stop at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, where he was met with a small, spirited crowd of students but also a contingent of about 40 tobacco farmers unhappy with the administration's plans for new Food and Drug Administration regulation of tobacco products.

"We don't need this regulation," said one of the farmers, Roger Hurst, who grows 40 acres of tobacco on his 800-acre Fleming County farm. He said he couldn't see an immediate threat to his livelihood from the proposed FDA rules, but "it's the potential of the regulation. We've got to make a stand somewhere."

*

Kemp, beginning a four-day California tour, arrived here accompanied by his mother-in-law, who still lives in Fillmore, two of the couple's four sons and four of their 11 grandchildren, after a 20-minute train ride through citrus groves and red-tiled housing developments aboard six vintage railway cars rented for the afternoon by the Santa Clara River Valley Historical Society.

Speaking from the back of a car draped with red, white and blue bunting, Kemp gave his economic remarks a spin geared more to the boisterous, largely middle-class crowd. Playing his family's California roots for all they were worth, Kemp promised that a Dole-Kemp White House will say to the state, "Mi casa es su casa," the Spanish equivalent of "Our house is your house."

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