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Dole Tiptoes Toward Senate Run

Former Labor Secretary Elizabeth Dole registered to vote in her old hometown Friday, inching her closer to a possible run at the U.S. Senate seat held by Jesse Helms.

Dole, 65, a former labor secretary and head of the Red Cross, had notified elections officials in Russell County, Kan., on Thursday that she was terminating her voter registration there.

"I've said many times this is my rock of Gibraltar, my home," Dole said after coming out of the elections office. "I love Salisbury."

Dole said it was an honor to be mentioned as a potential candidate and that she is giving "serious consideration" to running for the seat.

She used her mother's address in Salisbury, said Nancy Evans, director of the county board of elections. She must prove she's lived in the district for 30 days before the election in which she wants to vote, Evans said.

Helms, 79, had announced Wednesday that he would not seek a sixth term in 2002.

If Dole does decide to run, she will face former Charlotte Mayor Richard Vinroot, who announced his candidacy Thursday, in the GOP primary. Vinroot said Dole had called him Thursday morning indicating her interest in the race.

He said he told her he was going to run, adding that he told her "you're a good friend and will always be a good friend."

"Why be coy about it if you're interested in it?" he said. "Just go ahead and do it."

Dole's note announcing her intentions to change registrations was dated Aug. 22, the same day Helms publicly announced that he would not seek a sixth term.

Dole had long been registered to vote in Kansas, the home state of her husband, former Sen. Bob Dole.

Party leaders in Washington and North Carolina have been quietly courting her as a Senate candidate for weeks, arguing that her name recognition, popularity and experience would make her a strong candidate. Among her government roles: Federal Trade Commission member, 1973-79; Secretary of Transportation, 1983-87; and Secretary of Labor, 1989-91.

Other Republicans eyeing the race include former Sen. Lauch Faircloth and Rep. Richard Burr.

Faircloth said Wednesday he would consider running. "More than anything, I believe the choice of our next senator should be made by North Carolinians and not by Washington, D.C., politicians," he said.

Among Democrats, North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall is the only announced candidate for Helms' seat.

Helms' departure in 2003 will leave the GOP to defend another open seat in its bid to recapture the Senate, where Democrats hold a 50-49 majority, with one independent.

© MMI The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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