Washington Elizabeth Dole is weighing a race for the Senate in North Carolina in 2002 in the event Republican Sen. Jesse Helms retires next year rather than seeking a sixth term.
Dole has had some discussions about her plans with Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate GOP campaign committee, according to Republicans familiar with the developments.
Helms is expected to announce this fall whether he will seek another term. The 79-year-old conservative icon has suffered from health problems in recent years, including an ailment that numbs his feet and impairs his balance. He also had knee replacement surgery in 1998, and customarily sits at his desk rather than stand when speaking on the Senate floor.
Thus far, only one senator in either party, Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., has announced retirement plans.
Dole led the American Red Cross for eight years before launching an unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 1999. The wife of former Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas, she also is a former federal transportation secretary and labor secretary.