- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 20, 2003

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20 (UPI) — Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., said Thursday he will file paperwork next week to set up a campaign committee for a bid for the 2004 Democratic nomination for president.

The formal announcement is not expected for several weeks because he is still recovering from open-heart surgery performed Jan. 31.

He said in a conference call with Florida reporters that doctors are telling him it will be four to eight weeks before they will give him the green light to launch a full-scale campaign.

"During my recuperation, my political activity has continued, although the pace is less than anticipated," he said.

He does not plan to attend the Democratic National Committee meeting in Washington next week, but he intends to talk to party activists.

"I want there to be some real results from the telephone calls that I have been making to reporters and people who have indicated a willingness to help," Graham said.

He said when he does start to campaign actively, he wants to go full bore.

"I want to engage in the kind of active, aggressive campaign that includes workdays such as the ones in Florida for the last 25 days," he said.

During the workdays, Graham has done different jobs ranging from forest ranger to construction worker.

Graham, 66, 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.

The former chairman of the Senate's intelligence committee and current ranking minority member has been a leading critic of White House plans to invade Iraq and its policy on terrorism.

He is the only congressional candidate for president who voted against giving President George W. Bush the authority to use force in Iraq.

He said he thinks more attention should be given to suspected terrorist groups al Qaida and Hezbollah.

Graham was governor of Florida from 1978-86 and since then has served in the Senate. He was a considered a potential candidate for vice president in 2000, and his name has surfaced as a dark-horse candidate for the presidency in previous years.

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