- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 22, 2001

Republican Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina, a leading conservative lawmaker for three decades, has decided to retire next year, a state Republican source said yesterday.
Mr. Helms has requested air time tonight on a Raleigh television station to announce that he will not seek a sixth term.
Republican sources said officials at WRAL-TV were lining up other potential Senate candidates to comment after Mr. Helms' announcement, to be broadcast at 6 p.m. The station also plans to broadcast a one-hour special about his career tonight.
Mr. Helms, 79, has been a conservative stalwart in the Senate for nearly 30 years, but his health has been increasingly frail. He has told friends this year that his wife, Dot, would make the decision this time, and Mrs. Helms was known to be against another term.
"His mind is sharp, and he is a determined man, but I don't think his family wants him to run," said the Republican analyst, who verified in an interview that Mr. Helms will retire.
State Rep. Leo Daughtry, a Republican and a friend of Mr. Helms', said people close to the senator also have told him that Mr. Helms will step down.
"He's not replaceable," Mr. Daughtry said.
In Washington, Senate Republican sources said Mr. Helms was keeping them in the dark.
"We're going to wait and hear what he has to say," said Dan Allen, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Said a senior Senate Republican aide: "They're being very close-mouthed. [Mr. Helms] loves keeping people at bay."
Mr. Helms is a living legend in the Senate, known for his fierce independence and his mistrust of Russia when he was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. He also has fought to limit U.S. involvement with the United Nations, including peacekeeping missions.
Domestically, Mr. Helms is a determined opponent of abortion and a vocal advocate of school prayer. He has been a longtime opponent of homosexual rights and led the battle earlier this year for an amendment that would withhold federal aid from any school that bars the Boy Scouts of America over its policy against homosexual Scouting leaders.
He has tangled with Democrats and Republicans alike in the White House. Mr. Helms was one of President Clinton's most outspoken foes, but this year he gave fits to the Bush administration by blocking the confirmation of several Treasury Department nominees in a trade dispute.
There are at least eight candidates under consideration to run for the Senate seat. On the Republican side, former Republican presidential candidate Elizabeth Dole is being encouraged to run, and former Republican Sen. Lauch Faircloth will meet with advisers tomorrow to review his options.
Mr. Faircloth, who lost his seat in 1998 to Democrat John Edwards, is said to be seething that the White House is encouraging Mrs. Dole to run. He raised money last year for President Bush, and he approached top-level White House aides earlier this year about running if Mr. Helms retired.
"The more they push Dole, the madder he gets," one Republican operative said.
A group of prominent North Carolina Republicans is starting a public bid to draft Mrs. Dole, who is a native of Salisbury, N.C., and a former head of the American Red Cross. Youngsville businessman Robert Luddy said he is working with other business leaders and party officials to write letters to Mrs. Dole to persuade her to run if Mr. Helms retires.
But Mr. Faircloth, a Clinton, N.C., hog farmer and staunch conservative, has told confidants he is willing to spend upwards of $10 million of his own fortune to reclaim a Senate seat. He is 73 and served one term in the Senate.
Another North Carolina Republican contemplating a Senate bid is Rep. Richard M. Burr of Winston-Salem, a four-term House member with $1.2 million in his campaign war chest. Mr. Burr has said he will not challenge Mr. Faircloth if the former senator enters the race.
"We'll wait until Sen. Helms makes his announcement," said Paul Shumaker, an adviser to Mr. Burr. "Then we'll take a very hard and serious look at it."
Other Republicans considering the campaign include former Charlotte Mayor Richard Vinroot, who lost the governor's race last year, and lawyer Jim Synder of Davidson County.
On the Democratic side, North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall has announced her intention to run. Other potential Democratic candidates include state Rep. Daniel Blue Jr. of Raleigh, North Carolina's first black House speaker; and Mark Erwin of Charlotte, former U.S. ambassador to Mauritius.


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