Party Unites for Clement; Tennessee Democrat Seeks Thompson Seat

Article excerpt

Byline: Amy Fagan, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Democratic Rep. Bob Clement announced yesterday he will run for the U.S. Senate seat in Tennessee being vacated by Republican Sen. Fred Thompson.

"I have the experience. I have been preparing for this moment. I am ready to be your U.S. senator," Mr. Clement told a gathering of supporters in Nashville.

Attending were Tipper Gore and Democratic Rep. Bart Gordon - both of whom considered running for the seat but instead decided to support Mr. Clement.

"The process Democrats went through ended up with a pretty unified party behind Bob Clement," said a Democratic political analyst in Washington. "He's from the central part of the state, from a large media market. He's well-known ... and he starts with a good and important base - namely, Nashville."

Mrs. Gore, wife of former Vice President Al Gore, briefly considered a run for the seat once held by her husband, but announced Sunday she would not enter the race. "It would be such an honor to work for the people of Tennessee," Mrs. Gore said in a statement. "However, I have decided that it is not right for me, right now, to seek to represent them in the United States Senate."

Mr. Thompson announced March 8 that he will not seek re-election, setting off a flurry of activity in both parties and focusing attention on a race that earlier appeared to be an easy win for Republicans.

Democratic Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr. considered a run for the seat, but issued a statement yesterday saying he strongly endorses Mr. Clement. "He is the choice of the Tennessee Democratic Party and the congressional delegation. I look forward to campaigning with him," Mr. Ford said.

Mr. Gordon and Rep. John Tanner each said last week they would not seek the party's nomination for the seat.

"I think the delegation got together and made a collective decision ... to put the interest of Tennessee first. No one was pushed," said Robert Gibbs, press secretary for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

One Democratic analyst said that Mr. Clement would likely appeal to a broader audience in Tennessee than Mr. Ford would have. He said that Mr. Ford would have been perceived as being more liberal because he is from the Memphis area. …