Clinton Veterans Back on Political Scene

While former President Clinton is unlikely to run for political office again, about a dozen of his former staff are vying for elected positions this year.

Among the most well known are former Attorney General Janet Reno and Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who are running for governor of Florida and Massachusetts respectively.

Running for the open governor's seat in New Mexico is former Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, who also served as a congressman in that state before being tapped by Clinton to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Former Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo is running against Republican incumbent George Pataki for New York governor. In Connecticut, former White House aide Bill Curry is competing for the right to challenge incumbent Republican Gov. John Rowland.

One Chicago congressional race has two former White House aides — Rahm Emanuel and Pete Dagher — looking to fill the seat being vacated by Democratic Rep. Rod Blagojevich, who is running for Illinois governor.

Others are running for offices ranging from the U.S. Senate to state assemblyman.

The Clintonites have a ready-made topic to tout:  experience working in an administration that saw the budget rise to new heights. 

"Those candidates can say 'I came out of an administration that delivered eight years of peace and prosperity,"' said Craig Smith, a former White House political director. "In a time of war and recession, that doesn't sound so bad."

Among the other candidates are at least two running for Senate seats. In New Mexico, Gloria Tristani, a Clinton appointee to the Federal Communications Commission, is running for the seat held by Republican incumbent Pete Domenici, the ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee.

In North Carolina, former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles is vying for the Democratic nomination. If tapped, he will most likely run against former Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Dole for the seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Jesse Helms.

At least three former Clinton aides are running for Congress: Emanuel and Dagher in Illinois; and former White House staffer Fred Duval, who is one of several candidates running for a new House seat in Arizona. And former Clinton speechwriter Andrei Cherny is a candidate for California's state assembly.

Former Clinton aide Paul Begala said Bowles' decision came late, after Sept. 11 and a lot of soul searching.

"He had looked at running many times," Begala said of Bowles, son of a politician. "I know how much he saw the downside of politics. But he was so moved by Sept. 11, I don't believe he could comfortably sit in North Carolina and not run."

The rush to enter the political scene should come as no surprise to those who are familiar with the highly-charged political nature of the Clinton administration, say analysts.

"The rarefied oxygen of working in the White House leads to a virus that never goes away," said former Clinton aide Lanny Davis.

"In many ways, Clinton was extraordinarily successful, but there were the downsides and he ultimately failed to pass off the baton," said Thomas Mann, senior fellow for government studies at the Brookings Institution. "There has to be a sense of incompleteness to many associated with the Clinton presidency."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.