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Hoffa To Take Teamsters Helm

James P. Hoffa claimed victory Sunday in the election to lead the Teamsters and promised to bring a new militancy to the union once headed by his father.

"Everything looks great and we will be elected," the 57-year-old Detroit labor lawyer said on NBC's Meet the Press. He said he's already at work trying to restore to the Teamsters the influence it once had in the American labor movement.

Hoffa's election was assured Saturday when his opponent Tom Leedham conceded defeat.

"This union has been through a civil war," Hoffa said. "We have got to pull it together, we have got to restore the financial integrity of this union, we've got to restore confidence and hope in this union, get the people back to believing in their union."

He said two objectives will be to balance the union's budget without raising dues and to fight for better contracts. "We're going to see a new militancy in the Teamsters Union in our negotiations," Hoffa said.

The 1.4-million-member union has seen its membership decline in recent years and its top leaders end up in legal trouble. Incumbent Ron Carey won election under government scrutiny in 1991 and was narrowly re-elected in 1996 over Hoffa. Carey was later ousted after investigators found that his campaign benefited from an illegal fund-raising scheme.

His father Jimmy Hoffa was an effective and highly popular labor leader who allegedly had close ties to organized crime. He disappeared in 1975 and is presumed dead, a victim of Mafia infighting.

"The mob killed my father. They are never going to come back in this union. I will see to that," the younger Hoffa said.

He also said the Teamsters, one of the few major labor organizations to support Republican candidates in the past, will try to maintain a bipartisan stance.

He said he worked with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, to get money for the election and had received a congratulatory call from Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass. "We're going to be working with both sides," Hoffa said.

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