- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 11, 2003

WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 (UPI) — The recovery of Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., is on target, a spokesman said Tuesday, and his chief fundraiser says he is ready to go to work on financing a presidential campaign.

Graham was released from the hospital last week after open-heart surgery Jan. 31.

"He is doing very well. Doctors say his recovery is right on track," said Paul Anderson, Graham's spokesman.

The surgery interrupted Graham's plans to seek the Democratic nomination, but he is expected to announce his intentions soon.

"He said he will take some time to assess his own health status and the political climate before making a decision," Anderson said. "He expects to do that by the end of the month."

Anderson noted that the St. Petersburg Times reported Tuesday that "outside sources are talking about opening a campaign account within a couple of weeks and then putting off a decision until April."

He said he could not comment on that report.

He said Graham would return to his Senate office for "light desk work" next week while Congress is in recess and resume voting when it reconvenes.

Buddy Shorstein of Jacksonville, Graham's chief adviser and former chief of staff, said so far the other candidates haven't been able to raise much money in Florida.

"In order to solidify that, we ought to start some fundraising so that by the time he does announce, he's got some money to do things," he said.

Shorstein said prospects for war in Iraq could slow the whole process and that could help Graham make up for a belated start.

"No Democrats are going to be in the news while we're at war," Shorstein said.

He said that would give Graham time to play catchup in raising funds and building a campaign organization.

Graham has served 16 years in the Senate and is up for re-election in 2004. He has left open the possibility of a re-election bid if he doesn't get the presidential nomination.

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