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No Senate run for New Jersey governor

September 7, 1999
Web posted at: 5:05 p.m. EDT (2105 GMT)

TRENTON, New Jersey (CNN) -- New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman said Tuesday that she has decided against running for an open U.S. Senate seat, a move seen as a major blow to Republican hopes of building on their Senate majority.

Whitman, who formed a campaign committee in April, will sit out the 2000 race for the New Jersey seat being vacated by retiring Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg.

"I have determined that I can't be the kind of governor I want and need to be, and give the Senate campaign the kind of attention that it needs," she said.

Whitman
Gov. Christie Whitman announced Tuesday that she will not be a candidate for the Senate  

Whitman said that running for the Senate would take 110 percent and so would running the governor's office. The challenges of running for Senate would interfere with her ability to be governor, she said.

"I just thought I'm better off doing the one that I've been elected to do by the people of the state of New Jersey and doing the best I can," she said.

She also noted that the 2000 elections seemed to be starting much earlier than previous elections, including the presidential race.

"If everything could have waited until next April, then I think things would have been fine," she said. "But they couldn't with the amount of money that needs to be raised, with the kind of work that needs to be done, it was going to be very difficult to put off a commitment until then and that meant really starting to take away from my responsibilities sooner than I was comfortable (with)," she said.

Whitman's decision is a major blow for Republicans who hoped to capture this previously Democratic seat. A moderate GOP star, Whitman was the early favorite in the Senate race and was heavily recruited by her fellow Republicans.

Whitman said she spoke with Sen. Mitch McConnell, chairman of the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, and said he was disappointed. She also said that she was considering endorsing a candidate in the race and would work hard to elect a Republican.

Democrats are hoping to recapture the Senate majority they lost to the GOP in 1996. Republican currently hold a 55-45 majority, so the Democrats need to pick up six seats in the 2000 elections to gain power.

The Democrats have had to deal with retirements in Nevada, New York and New Jersey but there are 19 Republican-held seats on the ballot and only 14 Democratic seats. Freshmen senators also hold many of the GOP seats.

If Whitman were to have made a successful run, she would have had to abandon her current job. Her second term does not expire until 2002, though under state law she will be barred from seeking a third.

Whitman had run for Senate in 1990 against then-incumbent Sen. Bill Bradley and came within 50,000 votes of an upset. New Jersey has not elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate in nearly 30 years.

As governor, Whitman has been credited with lowering state taxes, imposing work requirements and time limits for welfare recipients and signing "Megan's Law," the model for states that now require registration of paroled sexual offenders.

Whitman's campaign committee had raised $2.4 million for the potential race in the past 80 days.

Whitman became her state's first female governor when she unseated Gov. Jim Florio in 1993, making Florio's tax increases the focus on her election. She narrowly won re-election in 1997 over Democrat Jim McGreevey, by 26,000 votes of 2.2 million cast, after McGreevey attacked her over the state's high auto insurance rates and property taxes.

Political insiders had anticipated a Whitman-Florio rematch, as Florio has formed his own exploratory committee for the Senate race in a comeback attempt.

Florio would face a Democratic primary against Jon Corzine, the former chairman of Goldman Sachs, who is making his first run for public office, and state party chairman Tom Byrne, who also plans to run.

CNN's Phil Hirschkorn contributed to this report.

RELATED STORIES

Gov. Whitman moves toward Senate race (4-8-99)

Sen. Lautenberg says he will not seek re-election (2-17-99)

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Tuesday, September 7, 1999

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