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Gephardt files presidential papers

Missouri lawmaker joins growing Democratic field

Former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt
Former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt

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NAME: Richard A. Gephardt.
AGE-BIRTH DATE: 61; Jan. 31, 1941.
HOME: St. Louis, Missouri.
CAREER: Practicing attorney 1965-77; St. Louis city alderman, 1971-1976; U.S. House, 1977-present; House Democratic leader, 1994-2002.
FAMILY: Wife, Jane; three children.
QUOTE: "It is time for me personally to take a different direction, look at the country's challenge from a different perspective and take on this president and the Republican Party from a different vantage point." -- Comment upon giving up the House Democratic leadership position in November.
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt filed papers Monday establishing a presidential exploratory committee, becoming the latest Democrat to throw his hat in the ring for 2004.

"This exploratory effort will mark my intention to seek the Democratic nomination for president in 2004," Gephardt of Missouri said in a statement this weekend. "I look forward to challenging President Bush and offering a distinctive choice and different direction for our domestic, economic and national security policies -- a difference that will lead to a safer, more secure and more prosperous future for all Americans."

Gephardt made an unsuccessful primary bid in 1988 and has openly discussed his desire to try again in 2004. His decision to give up the post of House Democratic leader last year was driven in part by his presidential ambitions.

An aide told CNN that Gephardt plans January trips to Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, which host the first three contests of the 2004 primary season.

In his announcement Saturday, Gephardt blasted President Bush for "too many unmet promises and too much empty rhetoric."

"On nearly every issue of importance to the country -- national security, the economy, health care, education, energy policy -- President Bush is leading the country either down the wrong path or not leading at all," he said. Gephardt promised to offer "a bold set of new prescriptions to address these urgent challenges."

Gephardt is widely respected as a straight-shooting, hardworking leader. He has spent years successfully raising money for colleagues in critical races.

However, he has also faced criticism for failing to lead Democrats back to a majority in the House -- particularly in the 2002 midterm elections, when Democrats lost seats in the chamber.

St. Louis native S. Lee Kling, former Democratic National Committee treasurer and current CEO of Kling Co., will serve as the treasurer for Gephardt's exploratory committee, the announcement said.

Three fellow Democrats have already established exploratory committees -- Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the Democrats' vice presidential candidate in 2000, has announced he's considering a potential run, as have Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, the outgoing chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee

Civil rights activist Al Sharpton has also said he will run for president.

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