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CAMPAIGN 2000

Bradley Fends Off Rumors He Will Quit Race

Politics: White House aspirant accuses Gore camp of spreading story that he will drop out if he fails to win Washington state. Vice president denies charges.

March 01, 2000|MATEA GOLD and EDWIN CHEN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

In his first visit to California in two weeks, Democratic presidential candidate Bill Bradley was dogged by rumors that he would quit the race today if he did not do well in Tuesday's Washington state primary.

An item posted Tuesday afternoon on the Hotline, an online political newsletter, quoted a high-level campaign official saying that Bradley would drop out if he did not win in the Pacific Northwest.

But Eric Hauser, Bradley's spokesman, called the story "absolutely false." Bradley advisors said that supporters of Vice President Al Gore started the story by circulating it over e-mail on Capitol Hill, along with a rumor that Bradley was canceling a rally at UCLA Tuesday.

A Gore spokesman denied those charges.

Meanwhile, Gore campaigned in southeast Los Angeles, where he made a vigorous pitch for Latino support as he articulated a message of tolerance and inclusion.

"I want to fight for the immigrant community. I want to fight for the Latino community . . . . It's time to bring our country together . . . [to] include everyone in our national community," he told a spirited crowd at a packed gymnasium in Cudahy.

The vice president directly asked the audience to vote for him on Tuesday, saying that the Democratic nomination "will be decided in California, here in Cudahy . . . "

Gore received a rousing welcome from the cheering, foot-stomping supporters crammed into an auditorium at a neighborhood recreation center.

Meanwhile, Bradley, campaigning in Northern California, continued to call March 7's round of 17 contests "takeoff time" for his foundering presidential bid and pushed his gun control platform during a stop at San Francisco General Hospital Tuesday morning.

Sitting alongside relatives of shooting victims, hours after a 6-year-old Michigan girl was shot and killed by a fellow student, Bradley said he is calling for the strongest gun control measures of all the candidates.

"We're not helpless, but our leaders have been almost useless," said Bradley, speaking in the hospital cafeteria before about 100 people. "Washington either protects the gun lobby . . . or talks tough, then does nothing."

Later, the former New Jersey senator flew to Los Angeles, where he planned to attend a rally with supporters at UCLA.

As his campaign waited for the results from the Washington state primary, Bradley's aides tried to turn the focus on the upcoming week, refusing to speculate on the percentage they need to win Tuesday to get a bounce.

Their strong, five-day push in the Northwest "shook up the race some," Hauser said. "We're glad we did it. We'll see what happens tonight. And we have good plans in place for the next week."

On Tuesday, the campaign also announced that Bradley will appear in a five-minute television ad on CBS Thursday night at 10:55, right after "48 Hours." Aides refused to say how much the spot cost.

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