- The Washington Times - Monday, August 4, 2003

Sen. Ernest F. Hollings will retire next year after 38 years as a senator from South Carolina, ending an era in Southern politics.

The 81-year-old Democrat made his announcement yesterday, further damaging his party’s efforts to win a Senate majority in the 2004 elections.

“I’ve been elected seven times to the United States Senate. Now it’s time for someone else to take over,” Mr. Hollings told a news conference at the University of South Carolina’s Ernest F. Hollings National Advocacy Center.

In typical fashion, he didn’t confine himself simply to his retirement. Among other things, he criticized President Bush for campaigning and paying “no attention to what’s going on in Congress,” and he worried about the shift in the United States from manufacturing to services.

“You’ve got 10 percent of the country producing and the other 90 percent talking and eating,” Mr. Hollings said.

Like many politicians of his era, he served in World War II — from 1942 to 1945 in the Army — and then served in the state legislature.

He won one term as lieutenant governor and one as governor of South Carolina before becoming a senator, where he made his mark as a deficit hawk who in recent years fought for more money for domestic security.

The colorful senator, whose barbs have targeted everyone from opponents to Presidents Bush and Clinton, had been hinting for months that retirement was coming, including telling Democratic officials they should begin looking for other candidates to fill his seat.

His retirement will mark the end of the most stable state delegation in the Senate’s history. Until this year, Mr. Hollings had been the junior senator from the state, behind legendary Sen. Strom Thurmond, who didn’t seek re-election last year and who died several weeks ago.

Both Democrats and Republicans praised Mr. Hollings yesterday.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, lauded his “common sense and courageous leadership.” Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, the new junior senator from South Carolina, said Mr. Hollings is “one of the most direct and straightforward people I’ve met in political life.”

Republicans were targeting South Carolina’s seat regardless of Mr. Hollings’ decision. In 1992, Mr. Hollings was barely elected with 50 percent of the vote and won 53 percent in 1998.

Without Mr. Hollings, Democrats are “starting from scratch,” said Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican and chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Both Inez Tenenbaum, the Democratic state education superintendent, and Columbia Mayor Bob Coble are considered potential Democratic candidates.

Mr. Hollings said they have their work cut out: “It wouldn’t be easy for anybody who’s a Democrat in this state to get elected.”

Four Republicans already are running for the seat: Rep. Jim DeMint, former state Attorney General Charlie Condon, Myrtle Beach Mayor Mark McBride and businessman Thomas Ravenel.

Democrats face a bleak situation throughout the South, where Republicans in 2002 successfully defended four seats held by retiring Republicans. At the same time, they defeated one Democratic incumbent and lost one of their own incumbents.

Sen. Zell Miller, Georgia Democrat, already has announced he will not seek re-election, so Democrats must defend two open seats in Republican-leaning states.

In addition, both Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat, and Sen. Bob Graham, Florida Democrat, are running for president and could have to decide between their White House runs and re-election bids.

Republicans, meanwhile, must defend the seat Sen. Peter G. Fitzgerald is vacating in Illinois, and will have to defend Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, whose father, Frank H. Murkowski, appointed her to serve until the next election after he won the Alaska governorship in 2002.

This article was based in part on wire-service reports.

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