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Capitol Hill (CNSNews.com) - Approaching his 18th year in the U.S. Senate, Florida's Bob Graham announced Monday that he will drop out of his second political race this year, putting an end to his elected political career. Graham dropped out of the Democratic presidential race last month.
"I am announcing today that I will not seek election to a fourth term in the United States Senate," Graham said during a news conference at a Tallahassee, Fla., high school. "This has been a very difficult decision for me and my family and I know for some of you it is a disappointment."
Probably not disappointed by the decision are the five Democrats who had already been seeking the nomination to Graham's seat.
U.S. Representatives Allen Boyd, Peter Deutsch and Alcee Hastings (a previously-impeached former federal judge), former state Education Commissioner Betty Castor and Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas had all promised to withdraw from the race if Graham chose to run for reelection.
Republicans who have declared their candidacy for Graham's seat include Judicial Watch founder Larry Klayman, former U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum, Florida House Speaker Johnnie Byrd and state Sen. Daniel Webster of Orlando.
One potential contender for the seat, Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) had already withdrawn from the race to attend to family matters, before Graham made the announcement.
Foley's former senatorial campaign office issued a statement shortly after Graham's announcement regarding Foley's political intentions.
"Congressman Foley is still tending to his family and concentrating on what's important," said Chris Paulitz, spokesperson for Foley. "He has no plans to re-enter the race."
Graham has served in the U.S. Senate since 1987, he was governor of Florida for two terms prior to his three terms in Congress' upper body. He said he looks forward to continuing to work on issues that are important to him including:
"Leveraging the collective experiences of my public and private life, including my Workdays, to secure jobs and expand economic opportunities for all Americans;
"Securing our nation from the threats of terrorism through my knowledge and understanding of intelligence and national security;
"Realizing Florida's destiny as the laboratory for the protection of fragile environments and as the Capital of the Americas; and
"[F]ulfilling our responsibility to future generations of leaders, perhaps through writing and the creation of an institution that instills the values of great Floridians."
"These are things that excite me, that inspire me, and to which I am convinced I can better contribute as a private citizen at this, the end of the beginning of my life," Graham said.
Personally, Graham said he looks forward to expanded opportunities to travel, "and for ways to enhance the understanding between America and other cultures."
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle already faced a rough campaign season in 2004 with three Senate Democrats from southern states retiring: John Edwards of North Carolina, Ernest "Fritz" Hollings of South Carolina, and Zell Miller of Georgia. He seemed disappointed that Graham would not be around to help Democrats in their efforts to regain the majority.
"The only consolation in Bob's announcement is that there are a number of strong candidates who are ready to follow in Bob's footsteps and who have already laid the groundwork for successful Senate campaigns," Daschle said in a prepared statement.
"I'm confident that Florida will be eager to fill Bob's seat with someone who can represent Florida's values and priorities as faithfully and forcefully as Bob has these past 17 years," Daschle added.
Graham echoed Daschle's vision that both of Florida's U.S. Senate seats would remain in Democrats' hands.
"Without question, this has been a difficult decision," Graham concluded. "But it has been made measurably less so by the confidence I have in the judgment of Floridians to select a new senator to serve them - and all Americans - from among the outstanding Democratic candidates."
Foley, approximately three hours after his campaign issued the first statement, issued a second statement that seemed to extend an olive branch to Graham, while spanking Daschle with a verbal switch.
"Senator Graham has served the people of Florida well and will be missed," Foley said in a statement issued by his congressional office. "I am confident that a Republican will soon be fighting for Floridians in the United States Senate."
Graham had trouble early on in his presidential campaign and was unable to launch his bid when he wanted due to major heart surgery in January 2003.
Though he tried to capitalize on his vote in opposition to military action against Iraq, anti-war Democrats seemed to flock to former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. Graham had openly called for the impeachment of President Bush, claiming that Bush, "knowingly deceived the American people about something as important as whether or not to go to war."
Graham will turn 67 on Sunday, and is expecting his 11th grandchild in March 2004.
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