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Thompson won't seek another Senate term

Sources: Former Tennessee governor to announce candidacy



WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tennessee, Friday announced that he won't run for re-election this year, saying he does "not have the heart for another six-year term."

Thompson -- a former prosecutor and actor who came to the Senate in 1994 to fill the last two years of the Senate term of Al Gore, who had vacated the seat to run for vice president -- called his stint in the chamber "a tremendous honor."

"I feel that I have other priorities that I need to attend to," said Thompson, 59, who would have been running for his second full term. "I hope that my friends and supporters who may be disappointed will understand and will believe that I will have given them eight good years."

For the remainder of the year, he said, "I will be working closely with the president and my colleagues in the best interest of Tennessee and our country."

Thompson, a key moderate on Capitol Hill, had been considering retirement last year, but decided to stay on in the Senate after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Associates said the senator was deeply affected when his daughter, Elizabeth "Betsy" Thompson Panici, 38, died January 30 after a heart attack.

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U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson, (R) Tennessee, says he doesn't 'have the heart' to run for re-election. CNN's Jonathan Karl reports (March 8)

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Senate sources said Thompson started telling colleagues of his retirement plans a few days ago, and he told President Bush this week.

Bush praised Thompson -- who was once on Bush's short list of potential vice presidential candidates -- for serving "the people of Tennessee with honor, distinction, and class."

"He has worked tirelessly for Tennessee's interests, as well as for the national interest. While I will miss Fred's service in the Senate, I wish him all the best and will always call him a friend," Bush said.

Candidates begin to line up

The battle is now on for who will replace him.

His decision could be crucial this election year, when both parties are fighting for control of the Senate. Thompson's retirement could give Democrats hope of regaining the former Democratic seat at a time when they are hoping to hang on to a slim one-seat majority.

Sources close to Lamar Alexander, the former Republican Tennessee governor and one-time presidential candidate, told CNN he plans to announce his intention to run on Monday afternoon in Nashville, Tennessee.

In an official statement Friday, Alexander said, "I will seriously consider being a candidate to succeed him and will make a prompt decision."

On the Democratic side, 31-year-old Rep. Harold Ford, the keynote speaker at the 2000 Democratic Convention, is to meet with advisers Monday to discuss a potential run.

Meanwhile, former Vice President Gore said he will not seek re-election to his former seat.

"I was honored to serve the people of Tennessee for 16 years in the House and Senate and honored to serve as president of the Senate for eight years after that," he said in a prepared statement. "We have some outstanding Democratic leaders in Tennessee who I hope will be candidates. I will work hard to help elect one of them to the Senate, but I will not be a candidate for the Senate myself."

A distinguished and varied career

Thompson first came on the national scene in 1973 when Sen. Howard Baker named him the lead Republican counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee.

Before his election to the Senate, he had law offices in Nashville and Washington and served as special counsel to both the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. He also penned the Watergate memoir "At That Point in Time."

He appeared in 24 motion pictures between 1985 and 1994, including "In the Line of Fire," "Die Hard II," "Cape Fear" and "The Hunt for Red October."

In 1993's "Line of Fire," he portrayed the White House chief of staff, a role that was credited with helping his successful campaign for the U.S. Senate the following year. He also portrayed a U.S. senator in the 1993 remake of "Born Yesterday."

Thompson, a key moderate on Capitol Hill, had been considering retirement last year, but decided to stay on in the Senate after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

His decision could be crucial this election year, when both parties are fighting for control of the Senate. Thompson's retirement could give Democrats hope of regaining the former Democratic seat at a time when they are hoping to hang on to a slim one-seat majority.



 
 
 
 







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