- The Washington Times - Monday, September 8, 2003

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — John Edwards will not run for re-election to the Senate in 2004 and instead will concentrate on seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, a state party official said yesterday.

The senator from North Carolina wrote a letter received yesterday by state Democratic Party Chairwoman Barbara Allen announcing his decision, state party Executive Director Scott Falmlen said.

“I … decided that I will not seek re-election to the United States Senate in order to devote all of my energy to running for president,” Mr. Edwards wrote Miss Allen.

Mr. Edwards was first elected to the Senate in 1998 but announced in January he would seek the presidential nomination.

North Carolina law allows him to run for president and Senate simultaneously, and state Democratic officials were getting restless in recent months while Mr. Edwards mulled his decision on whether to run for one or two jobs.

Mr. Edwards’ five-paragraph letter to Miss Allen resolves that question and lets other Democratic candidates begin building their Senate campaigns.

Mr. Edwards wrote that he and his family, on the campaign trail during the Labor Day weekend, took time “to discuss the next step in this journey.”

“More than ever, regular North Carolinians and people all over the country need a voice in the White House representing them,” he wrote. “The problems that drove me to explore a possible campaign are even more pressing today than they were in January.

“Given all of this, the decision to move forward decisively to seek the nomination was not a difficult one,” he said.

“It takes one question out of the way,” Mr. Falmlen said. “We’ve said all along the best option … was for John Edwards to be the presidential nominee” because it will energize party voters, he said.

Rep. Richard M.. Burr, North Carolina Republican, has announced he will run for Mr. Edwards’ seat and has built up a campaign structure that puts the seat in doubt for the Democrats.

Miss Allen didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment last night. Neither did a spokeswoman for the Edwards campaign.

Former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, a Democrat who lost to Republican Elizabeth Dole in the 2002 election for Senate, and former state House Speaker Dan Blue, a Democratic primary candidate last year, have expressed interest in Mr. Edwards’ seat should he not seek re-election.

Mr. Bowles didn’t discuss his own intentions last night in a prepared statement about Mr. Edwards’ decision.

“I will support him in any way I can in this effort,” Mr. Bowles said. “I applaud Senator Edwards for the courage of his decision and for his courage in the endeavor he has undertaken.”

With the White House’s backing, Mr. Burr has raised $1.8 million this year for the Senate race and transferred another $1.7 million from his House campaign account, federal election reports show.

Republicans hold a slim majority in the Senate but could extend that lead based on the retirements of Democratic Sens. Ernest F. Hollings of South Carolina and Zell Miller of Georgia.

Mr. Edwards is set to announce his candidacy formally next week in Robbins, N.C.

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