Tipper Will Not Run for Senate Seat

Now that Tipper Gore has decided not to run for the U.S. Senate from Tennessee, Rep. Bob Clement has gotten her blessing for a run for the seat to be vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Fred Thompson.

Clement announced his candidacy on Monday in Nashville. Gore, wife of former Vice President Al Gore, attended.

The two met Sunday just prior to Gore's announcement that she would not seek the seat formerly held by her husband.

"It would be such an honor to work for the people of Tennessee," Gore said in a statement. "However, I have decided that it is not right for me, right now, to seek to represent them in the United States Senate."

Gore made the decision after spending the weekend discussing the Senate race with associates, spokesman Jano Cabrera said. She had cut short a trip to California to return to Tennessee on Saturday to consider the race.

It may have been the shortest candidacy on the books. Word first emerged Thursday that Gore was considering running. Democratic operatives and friends said she decided to back down because Clement, son of former Tennessee Gov. Frank Clement, had already expressed interest.

"There was a developing consensus in Tennessee for Bob before she was interested," said Byron Trauger, a friend of the Gore family. "She put aside whatever her own interests were in the Senate in favor of consensus."

Clement said Sunday night he was grateful for Gore's commitment to public service. "She has fought courageously for issues that are near and dear to her heart," Clement said in a statement.

"No matter what role she chooses for the future, I am sure she will continue to fight for those issues and for Tennessee in the years ahead."

Clement was joined at his announcement by fellow congressman Bart Gordon. Rep. Harold Ford, Jr. issued a statement, saying Clement is the choice of the party and the congressional delegation. Ford said he looks forward to campaigning with Clement.

The Senate seat opened up two weeks ago when Thompson made a surprise announcement that he would not seek re-election for the seat he first won in a special election in 1994. Democrat Harlan Matthews filled the seat temporarily when Al Gore held the seat from 1985-1993, but left to become Bill Clinton's vice president.

The filing deadline for the Senate race is April 4.

On the Republican side, former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander and Rep. Ed Bryant have announced their candidacies.

Gore is known for her advocacy on mental health issues. She became interested partly because her mother suffered from severe depression. She also has acknowledged being treated for depression after her son, Albert III, then 6, was hit by a car in 1989 and almost died.

"I am passionate about mental health and family issues and my work in those areas will continue to be my focus," she said in her statement Sunday. "I will also work to elect the Democratic nominee for the United States Senate and all our Democratic candidates."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.