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Buchanan Hitches California Campaign to Prop. 187

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Acknowledging that his chances of winning the California primary are slim, Patrick J. Buchanan kicked off his last-ditch effort here Tuesday by focusing on illegal immigration as the cornerstone of a seemingly quixotic one-week campaign.

“What we have is a lawless situation on the southern border of the United States where this country is literally being overrun by people who are violating our immigration laws and defying the American Constitution,” said the former political commentator, who has been hammered in a long series of primary votes by Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole. “I will stop it cold.”

Speaking at an afternoon news conference in Los Angeles, Buchanan made it clear that he would hitch his sagging fortunes to Proposition 187, the 1994 immigration initiative that won by a landslide vote but has since been derailed in federal and state courts.

Buchanan told reporters that he favors federal legislation similar to the stringent state election measure, which called for an end to public education, social services and nonemergency health benefits for illegal immigrants. He also said that federal judges should be subject to term limits and recall elections so they could be “fired” if they determine that initiatives approved by majority vote run counter to federal laws or the Constitution.

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“We’ve got to get back to the idea that we Americans govern ourselves,” Buchanan said. “We’re not governed by judges, or little dictators in black robes.”

Later, at an evening rally in Rancho Cucamonga, where 300 chanting supporters crowded around him as he spoke under the glare of sodium lights, Buchanan continued hammering away at the immigration issue.

“If we can send troops to protect the borders in Bosnia and South Korea, why can’t we send troops to defend our borders in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and here in California?”

Buchanan, who made limited headway with the immigration issue in the Arizona primary, in which he finished third, acknowledged that Dole, who clinched the nomination Tuesday night with victories in the Midwest, is also likely to speak out against illegal immigration during a shorter campaign stint in California later this week.

Indeed, Buchanan, who trailed Dole by 52%-18% in a Los Angeles Times poll published this week, conceded that Dole has all but unstoppable momentum. “It does look as though he’s going to be the nominee,” Buchanan said.

But the acid-tongued conservative said he nonetheless plans to continue campaigning across California until Tuesday’s vote and eventually “go and do battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party” at the party’s national convention in San Diego this summer.

As a first step, Buchanan will travel to San Diego today to renew his call for a security fence along the Mexican border. He plans additional appearances in Glendale and Burbank on Thursday, Bakersfield and Fresno on Friday and elsewhere in the state over the weekend.

Buchanan’s California campaign coordinator, Peggy Mew, said Buchanan, who does not have the funds for a major media advertising campaign, will also stress his long-standing opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement and other sovereignty, job and trade issues in his campaign jaunt.

“We just keep on talking,” she said. “We keep on bringing the ideas to the forefront necessary to save this country.”

At his Los Angeles appearance, Buchanan also touched upon China’s military exercises in and near the Taiwan Strait. “The Clinton policy toward China has bordered on appeasement, and I believe it’s been a mistaken policy,” he said.

However, Buchanan reserved most of his verbal brickbats for illegal immigrants and elected officials and corporations that he says coddle them. “There are many corporations which are repeatedly hiring illegal immigrants and firing their American workers,” Buchanan said. “You have to repeatedly fine and punish companies that do that.”

“I believe the Congress and the president are utterly derelict in their duty by not enforcing the immigration laws of the United States,” he added.

Although state voters approved Proposition 187 by a 59%-41% margin less than two years ago, political observers say that Buchanan’s efforts are unlikely to have a strong impact at the polls next week.

“The concrete is hardening,” said Mervin Field, founder of the Field Poll and a California political analyst for more than four decades. “Each passing day reinforces the fact that Dole is way ahead and Buchanan is declining.”

Tom Rankin, chief lobbyist for the California Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, predicted that Buchanan’s appeal among average workers in the state will prove limited because “he’s opposed to increasing the minimum wage and state involvement in helping workers with all sorts of problems.”


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