Ashcroft Makes Senate Bid Official, Promises Shakeup He Vows to Work for Term Limits and Line-Item Veto

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Promising to shake up Congress to make it more responsive to the public, John Ashcroft made it official on Sunday that he's a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Ashcroft, who left office 13 months ago after eight years as governor, pledged to be willing to take on the federal government to push for the changes that he believes many Americans want.

"People have demanded welfare reform. Congress has responded with mushrooming entitlements," Ashcroft said in an interview Friday. "People want spending limits and presidential line-item vetoes, and Congress stonewalls.

"People want term limits, and Congress passes laws that the Congress doesn't have to live under."

Ashcroft said he would be tough on criminals, strong on defense, in favor of welfare restrictions and opposed to tax increases.

For Sunday's announcement at the Airport Hilton, Ashcroft was accompanied by the man he hopes to replace - Sen. John C. Danforth, R-Mo., who is retiring after three terms.

The announcement here is part of an 11-city, three-day campaign kickoff that began shortly after noon Sunday in Ashcroft's hometown of Springfield, Mo. The last stop is Tuesday afternoon in Hannibal.

Ashcroft, 52, has been an unofficial candidate ever since Danforth announced his retirement plans last year. So far, Ashcroft has no Republican opposition in the Aug. 2 primary. Five Democrats are vying for their party's nomination; voters would choose from the two parties' candidates on Nov. 8.

The Democrats already are hammering away at Ashcroft, who they portray as a do-nothing, tightwad governor who allowed the deterioration of state government and services.

Ashcroft said Friday that he was proud of his record as governor. His achievements, he said, included "job creation, fiscal integrity and responsible government." He also cited the various programs he pushed to change public education in the state.

He added that regardless of his opponents' tactics, his campaign would focus on what he would do in Washington, not what he has done in Jefferson City. He spent 18 years in the state capital; two years as state auditor, eight as attorney general and eight as governor.

"Frankly, this campaign will be about the future, not the past," Ashcroft said.

Whether or not he has a primary opponent, Ashcroft said he plans to campaign vigorously over the coming months. "I don't think that my being governor automatically entitles me to be senator," he said.

The centerpiece of Ashcroft's campaign will be a call to "reform Congress"; a key element is his proposal to make it easier to amend the Constitution. Ashcroft contended that Congress now blocks proposed constitutional amendments popular with the public, but unpalatable to politicians.

Under Ashcroft's plan, if 35 states join together and petition Congress with a proposed amendment, Congress would be required to allow all 50 states a chance to ratify the amendment. …