Saturday, March 9, 2002

BRYANT IN? WHITE HOUSE MIGHT BOOST ALEXANDER

BRYANT IN? WHITE HOUSE MIGHT BOOST ALEXANDER

Posted By on Sat, Mar 9, 2002 at 4:00 AM

SATURDAY UPDATE: UNCONFIRMED NEWS REPORTS FROM HENDERSON INDICATE BRYANT MAY BE A CANDIDATE ALREADY -- UNCONDITIONALLY.)

(Previously posted Friday):Amid growing indications that former Governor Lamar Alexander will be a candidate for the pivotal U.S. Senate seat that Fred Thompson announced Friday he would be vacating, two other Republicans were ready to go.

One known contender is 7th District U.S. Rep. Ed Bryant, who has eyed the seat for years and had let it be known a year ago, before Thompson’s temporary decision to run again, that he would compete for the Senate seat even if Alexander also pursued it.

That is still the case, as Bryant’s circle and the congressman himself made a point of indicating all day Friday. At the Madison County Republican party Lincoln Day dinner in Jackson, where Bryant introduced keynote speaker Thompson Friday night, that point was reinforced. But there was a caveat.

“I’m definitely running,” Bryant said, adding after a subtle pause, “if it’s an open race.” He defined that as being a contest in which “the White House” did not intervene on behalf of someone else -- namely, Alexander. Bryant said Tennessee’s other Senator, Bill Frist, had made it clear to him that, as head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, he would not attempt to single out Alexander as a preferred candidate.

In the increasingly unlikely event that Alexander does not run, Bryant will have a rival on the primary trail: former state Republican chairman Chip Saltsman, who, before Thompson’s announcement of a year ago, had been prepared to compete for the nomination with Bryant.

Saltsman, however, would not run against Alexander, whether or not the former governor had the imprimatur of George W. Bush's White House.

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