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A strong economy and a firm stand against school vouchers have earned Vice President Gore endorsements from Mayor Anthony M. Masiello and the Buffalo Teachers Federation.

The mayor and union President Philip Rumore made their announcement at a news conference Saturday at union headquarters on Porter Avenue. The news conference was one of nine held around the state Saturday to celebrate Gore's petition drive for a place on the ballot in the March 7 state primary.

"I don't think anybody is better equipped or better prepared to take on the mantle of the presidency of the United States and be spokesman for the free world than Al Gore," said Masiello, who was flanked by union officials as he spoke.

"He has been there for education, he has fought for smaller class size, and he is against vouchers," Rumore said. "We are prepared to do all we can."

Rumore called vouchers "an anathema to public education." Vouchers enable families of school-age children to use public funds for private education, but Rumore opposes them because he believes they drain money and support from urban school systems.

Candidates need 5,000 signatures to earn a spot on the New York ballot. The petition process began Nov. 30 and runs until Jan. 3.

Peter Ragone, spokesman for the Gore effort in New York, did not disclose how many signatures have been collected so far, but he expressed strong confidence in the vice president's chances in New York. The Associated Press reported last week that Gore was in a statistical tie with former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley in New York, according to a poll by Quinnipiac College in Hamden, Conn.

A Nov. 11 poll had Bradley leading Gore 47 percent to 38 percent. By last week, however, Gore had 42 percent and Bradley 39 percent.

"Buffalo is in the most important county in one of the most important regions in New York State. And of course we have a tremendous amount of support in Western New York. We are very grateful," Ragone said.

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