Gore visits Nevada, collects endorsement from Teamsters, details stand on state issues

LAS VEGAS - Having received good news from a Nevada poll, Vice President Al Gore tried to deliver some of his own Monday as he detailed his stance on issues key to the state.

Gore said during a campaign swing into southern Nevada that he is opposed to the interim storage of nuclear waste, believes gambling issues should be left to the states and plans to leave an even greater environmental legacy than his predecessor.

Gore said he has been fighting the nuclear waste storage battle since plans were announced to place an interim nuclear storage facility in his home state of Tennessee.

''I am opposed to locating interim storage before the scientific analysis of a permanent facility,'' he said. ''They need to find a scientifically acceptable long-term storage site and then take the waste there.''

Because nuclear waste poses the greatest threat while being transported, Gore said he did not want it to be transported more than once.

The vice president would not guarantee that if he were elected a permanent site would not end up in Nevada, which is being considered as the nation's repository for 77,000 metric tons of radioactive waste.

''It depends on the science,'' said Gore, adding that he had some concerns about the Yucca Mountain site 100 miles north of Las Vegas for permanent storage. ''In most cases, the storage at the utility site is the best temporary storage facility.''

When questioned about the decision facing Congress on whether to ban betting on college sports, Gore said regulation should be left to the states.

Gore said there are legitimate reasons to be troubled by betting on college games, however, 98 percent of the problem lies in illegal betting, not Nevada's sports books.

Gore admitted that the only bets he makes are informal ones with the ante being ''barbecue spare ribs or chicken wings.''

Gore acknowledged that on the environment, he has been attacked by some for being overly zealous.

''I think it's just common sense,'' he said.

Gore said any plans to follow President Clinton's lead in setting aside more land as wilderness ''would depend on the facts of the case'' but he did not deny that he probably would create more public lands in the West.

''The protection of federal lands is very important.''

Gore's campaign visit to Las Vegas was designed to call attention to his union support after the International Brotherhood of Teamsters endorsed him last week and to his health care agenda, especially as it applies to women.

Buoyed by a new poll that makes Nevada a toss-up, Gore said it's time to take medical decisions away from HMOS and put them back in the hands of doctors.

''We need to make sure women get the best health care and not the cheapest,'' Gore said to a group of more than 800 health care workers, teachers and union members during a 25-minute speech on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus.

He reiterated a similar message in a 35-minute address to 1,200 Teamsters gathered at Bally's hotel-casino later in the afternoon and went on to express his support for working people, creating jobs and protecting trade unions.

After the raucous Teamsters rally, Gore headed to Beverly Hills, Calif., for a fund-raiser.

Before his UNLV speech, Gore met with a group of health experts and women with health care issues of their own, including a victim of breast cancer. Tennis star Andre Agassi was also on hand because his mother and sister both have breast cancer.

''What's going on now is not acceptable,'' Gore said, criticizing what he called the ''phony bill of rights'' touted by Republicans. Gore lost a sister to lung cancer. ''Doctors and nurses should be able to choose health care for their patients.''

Gore is pushing for passage of legislation stalled in Congress that would increase protection for women in managed-care health plans. The legislation would force health maintenance organizations to offer coverage for mastectomies, set minimum hospital stays and require coverage for consultations to get a second opinion on diagnosis and treatment options.

The endorsement of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters was an important step because the Teamsters are the last major union to fall in line and back the vice president in his race against Republican George W. Bush.

A new poll shows Gore and Bush in a statistical dead heat in Nevada. The Sept. 9-12 poll released Sunday by the Las Vegas Review-Journal and lasvegas.com revealed a difference of only 4 percentage points, with Bush leading 46 percent to Gore's 42 percent. Since there is a 4 percentage point margin of error, that makes the race too close to call in the Silver State.

Previous polls had Bush leading Gore in Nevada by 8 percentage points in March and 12 points by June. The polls were conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research Inc.

Democrats say they are encouraged by the new poll because as Gore's numbers improve, so do the chances for Democratic candidates for the House and Senate.

''The Gore campaign is well-organized and well-financed, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said after Gore's speech. ''George Bush is going to lose Nevada.''

When Gore arrived earlier in the day at McCarran International Airport, he was met by tight security and a contingent of politicians, including Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, retiring Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nev., and the man who hopes to succeed Bryan, Democrat Ed Bernstein.

The same poll that showed Gore catching Bush found Bernstein has trimmed the lead of former Republican congressman John Ensign from 20 percentage points to 11.

For their part, Republicans say the poll numbers aren't cause for alarm. Gov. Kenny Guinn, who chairs Bush campaign in Nevada, said strong Republican turnout and the Texas governor's performance in the upcoming debates will turn the tide of Gore momentum.


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