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Ohio's Sen. Glenn Won't Run Again In 1998

By Candy Crowley/CNN

glenn

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Feb. 20) -- Sen. John Glenn, saying there "is still no cure for the common birthday," announced today he will not seek a fifth term in 1998. (448KAIFF or WAV sound)

Glenn, 75, said his health remains excellent, but if he ran again and won, he would be 83 as his six-year Senate term was ending.

"And for that reason and for that reason alone -- no other reason -- I have decided I will not be a candidate for re-election to the Senate in 1998," said the Ohio Democrat.

crowd

Glenn made his announcement, which was expected since earlier this week, in New Concord, Ohio, at Muskingum College, his alma mater.

He vowed to work hard in the Senate in his final two years and said he has been proud to speak for 11 million Ohioans in Washington, D.C. (320K AIFF or WAV sound)

Annie and John Glenn

"And for me, public service remains what people of religious faith refer to as a calling," Glenn said. "I think in politics, if you go into it with the right attitude, it is a calling, almost akin to the ministry."

It was 35 years ago to the day that Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth.

Glenn was a hero when that meant something, a 40-year-old test pilot when he became the first American to orbit the earth. He turns 76 in July.

He says it seems like it was 30 days ago, not 35 years. But it was when space flight was a scary unknown.

Said Glenn: "It seems almost laughable right now, but the doctors were concerned, would my eyeballs change shape? And would my vision become myopic or whatever?"

On terra firm, Glenn moved into business and in 1974, won a ticket to Washington.

A moderate Democrat, seen as a expert on nuclear proliferation, Glenn is also credited with 22 years of yeoman's work in the unsexy territory of improving the inner workings of government.

Along the way, Glenn's star lost some shine. One of the "Keating Five" who were suspected of doing favors for a wealthy campaign donor, Glenn was found only to have exercised poor judgment.

The truth is, in the political universe, Glenn never soared and never reached the heavens. A 1984 presidential bid was scrubbed. The campaign was chaotic, and he was dull on the stump.

Still, his fans, who cross generations and the political spectrum, think the totality of Glenn's work comes back to a single word that used to mean something -- hero.

"His service as a test pilot, as a Marine, decorated war hero in many ways, his work in the Mercury program and his work in the Senate, it all fits together as someone who's had uncommon commitment to this country, a true patriot, a real hero," said White House press secretary Mike McCurry, who worked for Glenn during the 1984 campaign.

Says Glenn: "They've all been wonderful opportunities that I've seen as responsibilities."

With the two years left in his term, Glenn has a final responsibility that could well color his Senate career. He is the most powerful Democrat on the committee investigating political fund-raising.

With most of the allegations against Democrats, the question is whether Glenn's apparent decision to leave politics relieves him of the pressure to promote the party line.


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