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On second try, Hoffa is elected president of Teamsters union Labor lawyer gains post his powerful father occupied for 14 years


ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- James P. Hoffa won election yesterday to the presidency of the Teamsters union, the job that his powerful father held for more than a decade, after the main opponent conceded defeat.

With the concession by Tom Leedham, Hoffa, a labor lawyer from Detroit, will take the helm of International Brotherhood of Teamsters, one of the nation's largest unions. The victory marked a return of the Hoffa name to the head of a union that federal officials had long called the most corrupt, particularly when Hoffa's father, James R. Hoffa, led the organization from 1957 to 1971.

Leedham admitted defeat yesterday afternoon with only about 40 percent of the votes counted, but with Hoffa holding what appeared to be a decisive lead. Hoffa had 88,851 votes, or 54 percent, of those counted, while Leedham, head of the warehouse division, had 65,439, or 40 percent. A third candidate, John Metz, a St. Louis teamsters leader, had 9,225 votes, or 6 percent.

"The returns have made it clear that our campaign for rank-and-file power ran out of time," Leedham said in a statement. "Hoffa Jr. campaigned for four years, spent $6 million and had a famous name, but in six short months we came from nowhere to build a grass-roots campaign for rank-and-file power."

Both sides said that Hoffa's lead was likely to expand because today will be dedicated to counting votes from the Midwest, which is Hoffa's home turf and was his father's stronghold. About 420,000 votes were cast; counting is expected to be finished today or tomorrow.

Hoffa won the race in his second try, having lost narrowly in 1996 to Ron Carey, the incumbent. That result was overturned, and a new election ordered when a federal monitor found that three Carey aides had misappropriated more than $700,000 from the Teamsters treasury to help the Carey campaign. Carey was later barred from the union, and Leedham replaced him as a candidate.

Hoffa, a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, ran on a platform promising to reunite the badly splintered union and to return more power to state and local Teamster organizations.

Pub Date: 12/06/98

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