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Bradley to make official announcement

September 8, 1999
Web posted at: 11:19 a.m. EDT (1519 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley will officially announce his bid for the 2000 Democratic nomination Wednesday after months of being on the campaign trail.

Bradley's underdog run against Vice President Al Gore was unofficially launched last December when the former New Jersey senator said he would be a candidate just a week after creating a presidential exploratory committee.

Then Bradley told a cheering crowd of supporters that "it's a decision I have circled for about 10 years. You don't know if it's the right thing until ... after you've made up your mind. One week later, I have never felt more right about a decision in my entire life."

Bradley will kick off his official announcement on Wednesday with a morning speech in Crystal City, Missouri, his hometown. A community reception with the citizens of Crystal City will immediately follow the speech, and later that evening Bradley will lead media on a walking tour of his hometown.

On Thursday morning , September 9, Bradley will hold a press conference in the backyard of the house where he grew up. Bradley will then lead a caravan of friends and supporters up the Mississippi River to Keokuk, Iowa to begin three days of campaigning in the Hawkeye State.

Since announcing he would be a candidate, Bradley has gone on to raise more than $11 million in the first six months of 1999, a respectable amount for a challenger to an incumbent vice president. Bradley has found help fund-raising from some of the many prominent sports figures he befriended when he was a pro basketball star with the New York Knicks, and he has also found fertile fund-raising ground among lawyers and investment bankers.

Bradley has come out strongly in favor of stronger gun control laws, campaign finance reforms, including banning "so-called" soft money, and Bradley calls racial division as the country's number one national problem. He has also courted labor unions for support as well.

He also has criticized Gore's biggest backer, President Bill Clinton, saying the Monica Lewinsky scandal has fueled the public's mistrust in government. Bradley said public officials must learn to trust the people's ability to make informed decisions

"If, for example, President Clinton had trusted the majority of Americans to accept an early apology for his personal misjudgment, we could have been spared the trauma of impeachment," he said.

"And if, more generally, a president would trust the people to deal with complex issues, he could go beyond the superficial gimmicks that prevail today."

Bradley first considered running for president in 1992 but now says he is thankful he declined because his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer later that year, and Bradley was by her side as she recovered from surgery and chemotherapy.

Bradley was born July 28, 1943, in Crystal City, Missouri, the only child of Warren and Susan Bradley. His father was the president of the local bank while his mother was a school teacher. He became a talented basketball player but turned down a scholarship at basketball powerhouse Duke to attend Princeton University.

Bradley was a three-time All-American at Princeton and led the U.S. basketball team to the gold medal at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo.

Bradley was courted by professional basketball but opted to be a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. After returning to the U.S., he joined the New York Knicks in 1967, playing for them until his retirement in 1977 and helping to win two NBA championships in the process.

According to his Web site, Bradley refused to do any commercial endorsements while he was in the NBA, and in a game dominated by talented African-Americans, he was suspicious that all of the attention and offers he received were primarily because he was seen as a "great white hope," not because of his playing ability. He also wanted to keep his basketball experience "pure, as innocent and unpolluted by commercialism as possible."

While he was in the NBA, he met his wife Ernestine and they were married in 1974 during a schedule break: he was off due to NBA All-Star game, and she was on break between semesters at Montclair State College, where she began teaching in 1971 and is still on the faculty.

He then ran for the U.S. Senate from New Jersey in 1978, winning the seat and holding it until his retirement in 1996. He easily won re-election in 1984 but had to overcome a stiff challenge from now-New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman in 1990, beating her by 50,000 votes.

His attention to racial issues was highlighted in a memorable Senate speech in which he hit a Senate lectern 56 times to dramatize the beating of black motorist Rodney King by Los Angeles police officers.

In 1995, Bradley retired from the Senate, declaring politics "broken." But he has returned to the political arena to run for president.


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Join Democratic presidential hopeful Bill Bradley for his first online chat! Mark your calendars for this Thursday, September 9 at 4 p.m. EDT and get your questions ready for the former senator from New Jersey.


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