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A federal judge has appointed a new overseer to determine whether Teamsters President Ron Carey can run for re-election against challenger James P. Hoffa in a new election.

U.S. District Judge David Edelstein also said Monday that ballots will be mailed to the union's 1.4 million members on Jan. 9. The vote count will begin Feb. 6.

"It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of maintaining free and democratic (Teamsters) elections," wrote Edelstein, who has presided since 1989 over a consent decree the union signed with the Justice Department to avoid federal racketeering charges.

Edelstein appointed former U.S. District Judge Kenneth Conboy to decide whether Carey can be held responsible for the fund-raising scheme that led Conboy's predecessor to set aside Carey's December 1996 victory.

Conboy already is familiar with the issues in the case. He has served as the "special master," ruling on appeals under the consent decree before they advance to Edelstein's courtroom.

Barbara Zack Quindel, the previous election officer, recused herself after new testimony implicated an associate of one of her investigators and the New Party, a small political party to which she belongs.

A week earlier, Carey's campaign manager, Jere Nash, and two others pleaded guilty in federal court in Manhattan in a fund-raising scheme that diverted Teamsters treasury money into Carey's campaign war chest.

In his decision Monday, Edelstein approved stricter limits on campaign contributions and greater disclosure requirements.

He rejected Hoffa's protests that the election should be further delayed.

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