WASHINGTON (AP) _ Republican Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee will not seek re-election, White House and Senate officials said Friday.
The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Thompson will serve out his term, which expires next January. One Republican Senate official said the lawyer and former actor was retiring for personal reasons dealing with his family.
Thompson's daughter, Elizabeth, died Jan. 20 from a brain injury following a heart attack. She was 38.
Asked by a reporter Friday if he planned to seek re-election, Thompson replied: ``I have nothing to say about that now.'' He indicated there would be a statement later.
Thompson, 59, had looked hard at announcing last year that he would retire from the Senate after only one full term. But he announced two weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that he would seek re-election.
``Seeing all that happen and all those people looking for ways to contribute when I had one right here before me, in my lap, so to speak, it became obvious,'' Thompson said then. ``Now is clearly not the time to leave.''
Democrats now have a one-seat edge in the Senate. Three other Senate Republicans, Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, Phil Gramm of Texas and Jesse Helms of North Carolina, also have announced that this is their last year in office.
Though Tennessee has sent increasing numbers of Republicans to Congress in recent years, Thompson's retirement could complicate the party's efforts to regain a Senate majority in the November elections.
Democrats control the chamber by a 50-49 margin; the 100th senator, James Jeffords of Vermont, is an independent who leans Democratic.
Republicans say there have been some discussions within the party with Lamar Alexander, a former governor, former education secretary and former presidential candidate, about whether he would be available to run for the seat if it came open. Filing remains open in Tennessee until April 4.
``Former Gov. Lamar Alexander is the Republican Party's strongest candidate to retain the seat,'' said Scott Reed, a Republican consultant.
The tall, deep-voiced Thompson first came to public attention as the top lawyer for then-Sen. Howard Baker, R-Tenn., during the Watergate hearings of 1973.
He became a successful lobbyist in Washington whose clients included the Teamsters union. He was also a movie actor, playing an admiral in ``The Hunt for Red October'' and the White House chief of staff in ``In the Line of Fire'' starring Clint Eastwood.
In 1994, Thompson was the early underdog to succeed the retiring Democratic Sen. Harlan Mathews, who was appointed to replace Sen. Al Gore when Gore became vice president.
Thompson portrayed himself as a Washington outsider, driving around his state in a pickup truck and often wearing a flannel shirt. He easily defeated Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper in a landslide year for Republicans, and then romped to re-election in 1996.