Tipper Gore mulling Senate race

Friday, March 15, 2002

Associated Press WriterWASHINGTON (AP) -- Tipper Gore was cutting short a trip to California to return to Tennessee, where she planned to spend the weekend talking with associates about a possible run for the Senate, sources close to her said Friday.

The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Mrs. Gore wants to make a decision quickly about whether to seek the seat from Tennessee that her husband, Al Gore, held from 1985 to 1993. One source said a decision should come by the middle of next week.

Among the people Mrs. Gore is expected to talk with in coming days is Rep. Bob Clement, D-Tenn., who has expressed interest in running for the Senate seat.

Clement said Friday he would hold a news conference Monday. Democratic sources say they expect he will announce his candidacy

Clement did not return phone calls seeking comment. Should he enter the race, Mrs. Gore will have the added burden of deciding whether she wants to campaign against a fellow Democrat.

Rep. Harold Ford Jr., D-Tenn., who also is considering a run, has said he would not enter the race if Clement runs.

The Senate seat opened up when Republican Fred Thompson announced last week that he would not seek re-election. The surprise decision turned what had been considered a safe Republican seat into one expected to be among the most highly contested this fall.

Al Gore immediately ruled out running for his old seat. Tipper Gore was not considered a potential candidate until Thursday, when sources close to her told The Associated Press she had been contacted by Democrats and was weighing whether to run.

Several Democratic officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Friday they were caught off guard by her refusal to rule out a run. However, in the end, they said they expect she will not seek the seat.

On the Republican side, Former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander and Rep. Ed Bryant have announced their candidacies.

The filing deadline for the Tennessee Senate race is April 4.

Should she run for Senate, Mrs. Gore would follow in the path of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y. At the urging of Democrats, the former first lady ran for, and captured, her Senate seat at the end of her husband's presidency.

Mrs. Gore is known for her interest in mental health. She said she became interested partly because her mother suffered from severe depression. She said she also was treated for clinical depression after her son, Albert III, then 6, was hit by a car in 1989 and almost died.

Jano Cabrera, a spokesman for the Gores, said the couple is house hunting in Nashville. Al Gore has been dividing his time between Washington and Tennessee, where he is teaching at two universities in the Nashville area.

Cabrera said the Gores will keep their farm near Carthage, where Gore's mother lives, as well as a house in Arlington, Va., that has been in Tipper Gore's family for 60 years.

Al Gore says he has not decided whether he will run for president again, but he recently formed a leadership political action committee that he says will support Democratic candidates nationwide.

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