College Press Service
LOS ANGELES -- Charging that affirmative action is an affront to the American principle of fair play, Sen. Bob Dole pledged his support for a California initiative that would ban the use of race and gender preferences in all state hiring and college admissions.
The presidential candidate, campaigning in California for the upcoming Republican primary, laid out his stance to cheering crowds in"Little Saigon," a Vietnamese neighborhood in South Los Angeles.
"It ought to be based on merit. This is America. That's what America is all about," Dole said. "We're one America. We're not black, we're not white, we're not Asian ... we're one America."
The controversial California Civil Rights Initiative will be on the state's November ballot. It is another issue in which Dole and President Bill Clinton, who opposes the initiative, diverge.
Affirmative action policies, which seek to boost employment and educational opportunities for women and minorities, have been in place for years in the University of California's nine-campus system.
Last July, Gov. Pete Wilson and the UC System Board of Regents voted to drop UC's affirmative action policies.
Since then, hundreds of angry students have led protests, many ending with arrests.
The bitter battle took an unexpected twist in February when supporters of the initiative gathered enough signatures to place the measure on the November ballot, allowing voters to decide the issue.
Dole's position breaks his long record of supporting some affirmative-action programs. Dole had been one of 23 Republican senators to urge support of federal set-aside programs designed to help minority candidates.