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p>Transcript of Sen. Fred Thompson's press conference at Jackson, 3-8-02:

"It was a very personal decision. We just have some other priorities right now that we need to take care of. I've had a wonderful opportunity to serve the people of Tennessee. It's been the greatest honor of my professional life. But frankly, as the way life takes us on twists and turns, and for me, it's resulted in me just not having the heart to run another campaign and serve another six years in Washington. There are a lot of personal things connected with that, but I don't care to go into that.

"I hadn't even thought the future. I wouldn't necessarily rule myself out [of politics] for the rest of my life, but I certainly don't have plans along those lines right now.

"The president was… we had a wonderful conversation. I was able to finally track him on down on Air Force One today. He's a person who understands. He had his own family growing up, and issues to deal with there. He's a religious man, he has sense of understanding, and he and I have always had a good understanding.. He said he regretted it, but he understood it. And we spent the rest of the conversation talking about how we wanted to have a real good year this year and how we'll have the opportunity to talk about a lot of things before he and I both get out of this business.

"I feel very good about the Republican party. Obviously it was very important to me to not disadvantage my party. We have got some very good people who I hope will consider running for this seat. I feel real good about it. We ought to be able to retain this seat. I'm not picking anybody for my wouldn't do me any good if I did. I wouldn't be presumptuous enough to suggest who ought to be taking my place. I think we've got several good people who are qualified to do that.

"One thing that's the most tangible I guess might be clearly resolved in the future is campaign finance reform. That's something I started on almost the day I got there, and it'll be something that hopefully will wind up here in the next few days...I simply feel that we've gone away from a small dollar system, and an average person system to the big corporations and the big unions, and the tremendously large sums of money and it's always just a scandal waiting to happen.

“Well, we've had another scandal. And there'll be another one after that. And another one after that. It hurts the system, it hurts our institution of congress, and it creates cynicism among the American people. I think that's about to happen... I think the president will sign that bill. I think that will leave that system a better system than when we found it.

"Frankly, in some ways, I'd like to serve another year or two after this one. And I got to thinking about that possibility and all.... but it quickly became obvious that that wasn't the right thing to do. There's no exit strategy as they say in war.... and having somebody appoint a successor... and walking away in the middle of a term.... or something like that.... it just, it was obvious that I either needed to bite the bullet and do it now, or serve another six-year term. And as much as I've appreciated the opportunity to serve, I knew deep in my heart when I really examined it that I didn't want to stay in Washington another six years.

[Would he consider a run for governor] "You mean now? No. When I'm 80 years old, maybe, I don't know."

(Transcript courtesy of Jeff Bossert,WKNO)

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