- The Washington Times - Monday, January 6, 2003

WASHINGTON, Jan. 6 (UPI) — Veteran Rep. Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., said Monday that he plans to run for president in 2004 and will begin campaigning in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina — three of the earliest presidential battlegrounds.

Gephardt announced the formation of a presidential committee, which will allow him to begin fundraising and recruiting staff. He will make a formal declaration of his candidacy in the spring, he said.

Gephardt, 61, joins a growing list of Democrats seeking to unseat President George W. Bush next year now that former Vice President Al Gore has pulled out of the 2004 race. Sens. John Edwards of North Carolina and John Kerrey of Massachusetts already have announced their candidacies, along with black activist Al Sharpton.

Among other possible candidates are Sens. Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, who ran as Gore's vice presidential candidate in 2000.

Also tossing his hat in the Democratic presidential sweepstakes for 2004 is Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.

"Too many unmet promises and too much empty rhetoric has left us a nation unsure of our own economic security and still vulnerable here at home to the threats we faced over a year ago on Sept. 11," Gephardt said in a brief statement.

Gephardt sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988, the year the current president's father was elected.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Monday that no matter what happens with Gephardt's presidential bid, the 14-term congressman will not seek election to the 109th Congress. He already has $2.5 million in his campaign war chest, which can be transferred to his presidential campaign.

Following last November's election, Gephardt resigned his leadership post after Democrats failed to wrest control of the House from the Republicans.

Gephardt's Web site describes him as an expert on economic issues and foreign affairs. To the chagrin of his Demcrcatic colleagues, Gephardt was among the first to support Bush's call for a Department of Homeland Security and was an early backer of a threatened war in Iraq.

Gephardt, the son of a milk truck driver, was born in 1941 in the same South St. Louis neighborhood he currently represents. He began his political career as a precinct captain and holds degrees from Northwestern University and the University of Michigan Law School.

He was first elected to Congress in 1976 and became head of the House Democratic Caucus in 1984.

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