NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Republican Lamar Alexander, a two-time presidential candidate, former education secretary and Tennessee governor, will run for Sen. Fred Thompson's seat, an Alexander spokesman said Monday.
Alexander, who served in the Cabinet of the first President Bush, scheduled a news conference later Monday at the state Capitol to announce his bid, said the spokesman, Kevin Phillips.
Thompson, a Republican elected in 1994 to replace Democrat Al Gore, announced last week that he was resigning at the end of his term in January, primarily for personal reasons. The outcome of the race to replace him could tip control of the Senate from the Democrats to the Republcians.
The Daily Times of Maryville, the newspaper of Alexander's hometown, quotes sources Monday as saying Thompson called Alexander after his resignation announcement and they spoke for an hour.
Alexander dropped out of the Republican presidential primary in 1999, conceding he could not raise money or overcome the star quality of then Texas Gov. George W. Bush.
Coming close to tears, Alexander said he was giving up his six-year quest for the GOP nomination after his sixth-place finish in the Iowa straw poll. Bush finished first.
"This has been my last campaign. I've run for president twice, just as I've run for governor twice," said Alexander, who was Tennessee's governor from 1979 to 1987.
Alexander walked much of the state wearing his trademark red-and-black-checked flannel shirt when campaigning for governor. The gimmick was less effective when he tried it during his first presidential campaign.
Alexander, 61, spent last year teaching at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and had planned to return this fall. He was president of the University of Tennessee from 1988 and 1991.
The filing deadline for candidates seeking to replace Thompson is April 4. At least two Republicans and several Democrats have expressed interest in the race.
Republican Rep. Ed Bryant of Memphis announced his candidacy Saturday. Republican Rep. Zach Wamp planned to discuss whether he will join the race at a speech later Monday in his hometown of Chattanooga.
Rep. Harold Ford Jr., D-Memphis, and Democrats Bart Gordon and Bob Clement are also considering the race. Jim Hall, a Democrat and former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board under President Clinton, may also run.