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Tipper Gore says no to Senate bid

From Jonathan Karl and Dana Bash
CNN Washington Bureau

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (CNN) -- Tipper Gore, the wife of former Vice President Al Gore, said Sunday that after "serious consideration" she has decided not to run for a U.S. Senate seat in Tennessee.

"I have decided that it is not right for me, right now," she said in a statement.

Some Democratic officials in Tennessee were surprised late last week by the news that Mrs. Gore, who has never held political office, might run for the seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Fred Thompson. She canceled a weekend trip to California to return to Tennessee to discuss the possibility with family members and potential supporters.

"I have spoken with many Tennesseans, and of course with my family, about the possibility of becoming a candidate," she said. "These conversations have been exciting, and I have been truly humbled and extremely grateful for the encouragement and enthusiasm of so many good people."

The decision of the popular Thompson not to seek another term in the Senate has set off a political scramble in the Volunteer State.

Tipper Gore, wife of former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, says she considered entering the Senate race. CNN's Jonathan Karl reports (March 18)

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Mrs. Gore's decision to forgo the race appeared to clear the way to the Democratic nomination for Rep. Bob Clement, an eight-term U.S. House member from Nashville and the son of a former Tennessee governor. Clement issued a statement late Sunday lauding her for her "significant" public service and for her work on issues "near and dear to her heart."

"No matter what role she chooses for the future, I am sure she will continue to fight for those issues, and for Tennessee," he said.

Al Gore -- who represented Tennessee in the Senate for a decade before becoming vice president but failed to carry the state when he ran for president in 2000 -- also decided not to run. Another prominent Democrat mentioned as a possible candidate for the Senate seat, U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. of Memphis, also has decided not to run.

Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman William Farmer said Sunday that Ford and much of the rest of the state Democratic leadership have thrown their support behind Clement, who is expected to announce his plans Monday.

On the Republican side, Lamar Alexander, a former Tennessee governor and GOP presidential candidate, has said he will run. Another GOP House member, Rep. Ed Bryant, is also considering the race.

With Democrats holding power in the Senate by a single vote, the Tennessee seat could be important in determining the balance of power in the Senate in the 2002 election.

April 4 is the deadline to file for the Tennessee election.

The speculation about Mrs. Gore's future had swirled through Washington last week as sources confirmed the Gores are in the process of buying a home in Nashville.

Last week, a source familiar with the Al Gore's thinking said that "at a minimum" purchasing a home in Nashville sends a "very strong signal that Gore is serious" about mending fences in his home state.

Gore did not carry Tennessee in the 2000 presidential election against George Bush, although he narrowly won the national popular vote before losing to Bush in the Electoral College.

Gore has been increasingly visible in the past few months as he stumps for candidates in 2002 races.

He also has become increasingly critical of President Bush, but most of those who have spoken with him feel Gore has not yet made up his mind about running again for president in 2004.




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