Elizabeth Dole, expected to declare herself a candidate Tuesday for the Senate seat being vacated by Jesse Helms, called off her announcement amid news of terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

Dole had scheduled a 1 p.m. news conference at her home in Salisbury. At mid-morning, spokesman Jay Warshaw said it was postponed to an unspecified date.

Republican leaders in North Carolina and Washington have quietly been courting Dole as a candidate for the seat, saying her name recognition, popularity and experience in the cabinets of Ronald Reagan and George Bush make her the ideal person to replace the ultra-conservative Helms.

"I'm in there," Dole told the Charlotte Observer on Monday. "I've taken the first steps on the campaign trail."

A top Republican officeholder told The Associated Press that Dole called several GOP officials in North Carolina in advance of the announcement to let them know she was entering the race.

Another source said Dole planned to embark on a 100-county tour of the state almost immediately.

Dole told the Washington Post on Monday that she's going to establish a campaign committee so she can start raising money and building a staff.

"I'm going to be raising money, traveling the state, taking the first steps, and then make a formal announcement of candidacy later in the fall," Dole said.

Dole, 65, has not lived in North Carolina in decades and had long been registered to vote in Kansas, the home state of her husband, former Sen. Bob Dole.

But after Helms announced he would not seek re-election last month, she notified election officials that she was ending her voter registration there.

Dole has said she continues to consider Salisbury home, even though her career took her to Washington. She registered to vote in North Carolina last month.

"I think that I can certainly help with my experience and service in government, and my great interest in my home state," Dole told the Greensboro News & Record on Monday.

In Washington, she has served as secretaries of the U.S. Department of Transportation and U.S. Department of Labor. More recently, she served as head of the Red Cross.

Former Charlotte Mayor Richard Vinroot, who lost the gubernatorial election to Gov. Mike Easley last fall, and retired Salisbury physician Ada Fisher are the only Republicans to officially enter the race. Rep. Richard Burr of Winston-Salem also has been mentioned as a potential GOP contender.

House Minority Leader Leo Daughtry, R-Johnston, who lost to Vinroot in the GOP primary for governor, said Dole is an attractive candidate who will be tough to beat.

"They (Dole and Vinroot) might be the only two to announce. Of course, we'll have to see who announces," Daughtry said.

Party leaders in Washington and North Carolina have been quietly courting Dole as a Senate candidate for weeks, arguing that her name recognition, popularity and experience would make her a strong candidate.

Burr, though, is also a favorite of North Carolina party regulars.

Vinroot also enjoys name recognition following two failed attempts to win the governor's race.

Also Monday, Democratic state Rep. Dan Blue, a former House speaker, said he plans to file paperwork to become a candidate as early as Wednesday.

Blue said he has delayed making an announcement while the state lawmakers have been in the third month of a budget impasse.

"I had intended to have a little more flourishing ... announcement. But given what we're trying to do here and the fact that the budget is at a critical stage, hopefully, I thought it's more important to focus on the budget process and get a budget for the citizens of this state," he said.

Blue would face Secretary of State Elaine Marshall in a Democratic primary. Marshall was the first candidate to announce for the race.

Lexington attorney Jim Snyder, a Republican, announced Monday that he has formed an exploratory committee to assess whether he should run.