(CNSNews.com) - Although his office won't confirm or deny it, sources and media reports say Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) will not be running for re-election to the House seat he has held for 26 years. One of Gephardt's political allies has already begun a campaign to succeed the former House minority leader.
Gephardt was sworn in Tuesday to serve his 14th term representing the St. Louis area. However, he recently resigned his post as leader of the Democratic caucus and just this past weekend, announced the formation of a presidential exploratory committee, the first step in launching a bid for the 2004 Democratic nomination.
Gephardt's Capitol Hill office referred calls about his intentions to his St. Louis district office, which did not return phone calls Tuesday.
Missouri Democratic State Senator Steve Stoll officially announced Monday his intention to run for Gephardt's congressional seat.
"Congressman Gephardt has been a champion for the Third District for 26 years. Now, he is focusing on running for the presidency. I'm running for this office to ensure that Gephardt's tradition of service is continued," Stoll said.
Stoll is a former public school teacher. He was one of the lead figures in the passage of legislation that ended court ordered desegregation in St. Louis City schools and returned control to the local school board. He has also served for the past two years on the Missouri State Senate Appropriations Committee.
Republican Bill Federer, who challenged Gephardt and lost in 1998 and 2000, told CNSNews.com Tuesday he was awaiting the outcome of a lawsuit that has been sitting in a St. Louis County, Mo. court for two years before he decides his future plans.
Jury selection continued in Federer's suit Tuesday. He alleges he was harassed and stalked by one of Gephardt's campaign interns during a parade in St. Louis, during the 2000 campaign. However, the confrontation that took place between Federer and 22-year-old Jim Larrew resulted in Federer being charged with assault.
Federer not only denies he assaulted Larrew. He wants an apology from Gephardt.
"There was an incident which was videotaped in a South St Louis County Columbus Day parade and one of Mister Gephardt's aides charged that Bill Federer had assaulted him. He made a report to the police and the police gave our office a police report and some witness statements and videotape of the incident," St Louis County Counselor Patricia Redington said.
Redington admitted the charge against Federer is the equivalent of a traffic ticket. "That's exactly right. It's heard in what is called our traffic court. But in fact, traffic court is our municipal court that handles (county) ordinance violations."
"It was treated like any other minor assault charge that came to our office. It's set in court and the judge will resolve it," Redington said.
Federer Tuesday vehemently denied assaulting Larrew. "I didn't assault him. The guy shoved his camera in my face and I blocked it."
Federer also thinks the assault case against him is politically motivated. "It's amazing to me the extent of manipulation that Gephardt's machine can do. This is the longest and most expensive ordinance violation in the history of St. Louis County."
If convicted, Federer faces up to one year in the St. Louis County jail and/or a fine of $1,000.
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