- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said today that he will not run for president in 2008, a high-profile campaign dropout more than a year before the first convention delegates are chosen.

“In the Bible, God tells us for everything there is a season, and for me, for now, this season of being an elected official has come to a close,” said the Tennessee Republican, a surgeon before he entered politics in 1994.

He said he “will take a sabbatical from public life” and “return to my professional roots as a healer and to refocus my creative energies on innovative solutions to seemingly insurmountable challenges Americans face.”

Mr. Frist announced when he first ran for the Senate that he would retire after two terms. His decision not to seek the White House thus caps a 12-year stint in electoral politics in which he rose from an underdog in his 1994 Senate campaign to the position of majority leader a mere eight years later.

Among the Republicans already exploring a White House bid are Sen. John McCain of Arizona, former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Other potential Republican contenders include Sens. Sam Brownback of Kansas and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Govs. George E. Pataki of New York and Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, and Rep. Duncan Hunter of California.

Democrats also have an extensive roster of potential presidential hopefuls. Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois are the best known nationally; outgoing Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack will be first to formally declare his candidacy, tomorrow, in his home state. Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana also is weighing a bid.

Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, has announced he will not run for the presidency in 2008. Mr. Warner, like Mr. Frist, had begun putting into place a campaign organization to raise money and line up supporters in early caucus and primary states, as well as nationally.

Mr. Frist, 54, has been under investigation for more than a year by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which is probing accusations of insider trading in connection with the sale of shares in HCA Inc. Mr. Frist’s father and brother founded the firm, and it formed the foundation of the senator’s considerable personal wealth. He has vehemently denied any wrongdoing, although resolution of the investigation has eluded him.

Several officials said the SEC investigation was not at the heart of Mr. Frist’s decision. Rather, they said, he had come to the conclusion that he would have faced a formidable challenge in gaining the nomination, with little assurance of success.

Mr. Frist was a physician with no experience in politics when he challenged Sen. Jim Sasser, a Democrat. He was swept into office in that year’s Republican landslide.

In the 2001-02 election cycle, Mr. Frist headed the Senate campaign committee and the party gained seats. He was chosen majority leader after the election when Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, was forced to step down after making racially insensitive remarks at a birthday celebration for Sen. Strom Thurmond, South Carolina Republican.

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