Sen. Frist optimistic about election

By Megan R. Harrell
Star Staff
mharrell@starhq.com

   Sen. Bill Frist spoke candidly yesterday about his views on the upcoming election. He expressed regret for Sen. Fred Thompson's decision to not seek re-election but is optimistic about the Republican party's ability to keep the seat.
   As Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Sen. Frist stated that he will do everything that is in his power to make sure the U.S. Senate does not loose any Republicans. "I will use all my resources to see that Sen. Thompson's seat stays Republican," Sen. Frist said. "I will let the primary election play out to see who that candidate will be."
   A primary will decide who will get the Republican nod between Lamar Alexander and Rep. Ed Bryant for Thompson's seat. Sen. Frist stated that the primary keeps candidates on their toes in preparation for November's election. "I believe in the primary system because it makes candidates fresh, puts them out front and gives them definition," Sen. Frist said. "There is nothing wrong with having a good primary."
   Sen. Frist also answered rumors that he had asked Sen. Thompson to step down from office, and that he had spoken to Alexander about the possibility of replacing Sen. Thompson. "I did not ask Fred to step down. There would not be any advantage in that," Sen. Frist said. "I am constantly talking to people to encourage them to enter public service."
   Sen. Frist does not expect Congressman Harold Ford to run against him again in this election because he does not believe that Ford can beat him in the race. Sen. Frist has been watching polls and getting a feel for what the electorate is. "I believe Congressman Ford's political future will be best served by staying in the House," Sen. Frist said. "He is a very articulate public servant and has a huge future in serving his district and Tennessee."
   Maintaining Republican majority in the Senate is of concern to many conservatives in Washington. With Sen. Thompson's seat vacated and North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms' retirement, there could be a shift of power in the Senate.
   Sen. Frist expects President Bush to be involved in helping Republicans fill Senate and House seats in the upcoming election. "I expect President Bush to actively participate in campaigns across the country and that includes Tennessee," Sen. Frist said.