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Senior Democratic Party Politician Resigns From Leadership Post - 2002-11-07

In the first major political fallout from Tuesday's mid-term congressional elections, reports say Congressman Richard Gephardt has decided not to seek a new term as leader of the minority Democrats in the House of Representatives.

Mr. Gephardt's decision, reported by senior aides late Wednesday, was widely expected.

He ran unsuccessfully for President in 1988. One year later became leader of what was then the Democratic majority in the House.

In 1994, after a Republican landslide swept Republicans into control in the House, Mr. Gephardt became minority leader.

For months, there has been speculation Mr. Gephardt would step down if Democrats failed to gain the majority in the House.

In broadcast interviews following Tuesday's election, Mr. Gephardt said he has not yet decided whether to seek the presidency again in 2004.

Reports say Mr. Gephardt will formally announce his decision Thursday. It is not known if he will also address his presidential aspirations.

Two Democratic House members have made known their intention to seek Mr. Gephardt's position.

One, California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, currently serves in the number two House Democratic leadership spot. Another, Texas Democrat Martin Frost, is scheduled to hold a news conference Thursday morning, but it is not known if it is related to the Gephardt decision.

Mr. Gephardt was the key congressional negotiator with the White House in efforts to draft a resolution authorizing President Bush to take military action against Iraq.

He has also been one of the harshest critics of Republicans, particularly on economic issues, issuing this statement prior to the mid-term election:

"I think the question for most voters is: are you better off? Are you better off? In the end the report card in politics is about what you have produced, and this report card for this Republican party cannot be good," he said.

Mr. Gephardt blamed Democratic losses in Tuesday's election on widespread public approval ratings for President Bush since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.