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Dole switching voter registration to N.C.

Elizabeth Dole
Elizabeth Dole  


By Jonathan Karl
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In the first concrete sign she is moving toward a run for the U.S. Senate, Elizabeth Dole is switching her voter registration from Kansas to North Carolina, CNN has learned.

Dole, who is considering a run for the Senate seat to be vacated by Sen. Jesse Helms, R-North Carolina, is applying for North Carolina voter registration Thursday in Salisbury, the home of her 100-year-old mother, Mary Hanford.

Dole has already written to the Kansas Secretary of State informing the state of her intention, a source with direct knowledge of the action told CNN.

"This is not a done deal yet," the source said of Dole's candidacy. "But this is the clearest indication yet that she is leaning towards running."

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CNN's Bruce Morton profiles Elizabeth Dole and her chances to become a U.S. senator from North Carolina (August 23)

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Watch Helms announce he will not seek another term in 2002 (August 22)

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Speaking to reporters in Crawford, Texas -- where he is on vacation -- President Bush said he would not get involved in any GOP primary in North Carolina, but he had kind words for Dole.

"I will tell you Elizabeth Dole would make a fine candidate," said Bush, who faced her as a rival for the GOP presidential nomination last year. "I competed against her once before, and she was formidable and a fine lady. There's no question about that. But I'm not going to get involved in the primaries."

A former Republican Cabinet secretary, Dole was born and raised in North Carolina, but has not lived in the state for decades.

Dole, who also served as head of the Red Cross, is married to Bob Dole, the 1996 Republican presidential nominee. She currently lives in Washington, D.C., and is registered to vote in Kansas, the state her husband represented in the U.S. Senate until 1996.

If she decides to run, national Republican strategists hope to anoint Dole as the heir to Helms' seat. But she faces a potentially crowded field of candidates who seem reluctant to bow out for someone who hasn't lived in North Carolina for decades.

Republicans considering a run for Senate include former Sen. Lauch Faircloth, Rep. Richard Burr, and former Charlotte Mayor Richard Vinroot, who unsuccessfully ran for governor last year.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Faircloth, who lost his seat to Democrat John Edwards in 1998, made it clear he is not afraid to challenge Dole. "The choice of our next senator should be made by North Carolinians, not by Washington, D.C., politicians," he said.

Dole was with her mother in Salisbury when Helms made his announcement Wednesday evening, and she was reluctant to speculate about a run for the Senate when reached later by phone.

"This is Jesse's night," Dole said, before added, "everything has changed tonight."

Dole added she "will seriously review the Senate race" and is "obviously doing some soul searching right now, talking to family and close friends." She would not discuss a timetable for making a decision, but took issue with critics who say she has been away from her home state of North Carolina for at least the past 30 years. She suggested the argument will go away "when people find out how much time I have spent here."

Dole said that after high school and attending Duke University she remained involved in the state, frequently visiting and serving for 11 years on the Duke Board of Trustees. In addition, she said, "I am a business partner in a farm developed into real estate property."

She pointed out that her family is all in North Carolina, with the exception of her husband. "I have no problem showing deep roots in this state. I don't see that as a problem," she concluded.

CNN's Judy Woodruff contributed to this report.






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