Signaling strong interest in running for the Senate in North Carolina next year, Elizabeth Dole on Thursday asked county officials in Kansas to remove her from the voting rolls there and said she planned to register "in another jurisdiction" in the near future.
Dole's husband, former Senate majority leader and 1996 Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole, told MSNBC that he was "almost prepared" to say his wife will be a candidate soon. Other Republicans also are jockeying for the chance to succeed Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C.
White House and national party officials regard Dole as the strongest candidate the GOP could find to run for the Helms seat and hope her entry into the race will avoid a divisive primary next spring.
A GOP strategist in Washington said Dole, who has served as secretary of labor and of transportation, had taken steps to shift her residence to North Carolina, where she's been staying with her mother in Salisbury, in an effort to satisfy the state's registration requirements. "She will be registering to vote there in the next few days," the strategist said.
Dole sent a letter dated Aug. 22 to the Russell County, Kan., clerk's office, which arrived by overnight mail Thursday. The letter read: "I am writing to inform your office that I am terminating my voter registration in Russell County effective immediately, as I am registering to vote in another jurisdiction. Thank you in advance for your assistance in this matter."
Simone Ginther, the Russell County clerk, said Elizabeth Dole has been registered in her husband's hometown since September 1976, the year Bob Dole ran for vice president.
Democrats appeared poised to challenge Dole as a carpetbagger. A memo prepared for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee questioned whether Dole could meet the residency requirements in North Carolina without formally abandoning her apartment in Washington.
Johnnie McLean, deputy director of the North Carolina Board of Elections, said Dole "will be the one who will have to determine where her residence is," but that any declaration is subject to a legal challenge by any registered voter in the county.
Republicans in Washington said private polling, including one conducted for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, showed the breadth of Dole's appeal in North Carolina and predicted that other potential GOP candidates would avoid challenging her.
"If Elizabeth Dole announces that she will run, she will suck all the political oxygen out of the state and cause all of these other gentlemen to take a good second look," said Scott Reed, who managed Bob Dole's 1996 campaign.