House Appropriations Chairman Livingston to Seek Another Term
By Helen Dewar
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bob Livingston (R-La.) said yesterday he no longer plans to retire from Congress this year and will seek an 11th term, suggesting he might try to succeed Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) if Gingrich steps down after the next two years.
Livingston's change of heart about retiring ended consideration by David Duke to run as a Republican for Livingston's suburban New Orleans seat, which would have been an unwelcome prospect for GOP leaders. The former Ku Klux Klan leader had expressed interest in running but only if Livingston did not. And yesterday, Duke told reporters he would not challenge Livingston. The GOP "knew I would have a strong chance of winning this race," he told the Associated Press. "The Republican leadership was desperate to keep Livingston."
At a news conference and in a telephone interview, Livingston said Duke's possible candidacy played no role in his decision, even though he had said he would use his entire $650,000 campaign treasury, if necessary, to assure that Duke did not succeed him.
"David Duke is a young man" and, if he had to serve until Duke was out of the picture, "I'll be 104 years old before I get out of this job," the 54-year-old Livingston said yesterday. "Duke had nothing to do with it at all," he said, adding that he "honestly believed" the seat would remain in the hands of a Republican other than Duke.
Livingston, who had been talking for weeks about retiring to pursue a more financially rewarding career in the private sector, attributed his change of heart to arguments from constituents that "tugged at my heartstrings."
The pressure had become so intense that, as he drove back from a town hall meeting Tuesday night, he decided to talk to a priest about his decision, Livingston said. The next day a group of New Orleans leaders, including retired Roman Catholic Archbishop Philip Hannan, came to see him with the same message. By the time they left, he felt like a "limp rag," he recalled.
"They were so persuasive I decided to go again," said Livingston, who is strongly favored to win reelection and to continue in his powerful appropriations post until his six-year term as chairman expires at the end of 2000.
Asked if other Republican leaders leaned on him to run again, Livingston said Gingrich had done so repeatedly over the past few months, including a pitch during a speech in New Orleans. Livingston said he called Gingrich on Wednesday to tell him his decision.
Livingston described himself as a "Newt Gingrich loyalist" and said he would support Gingrich for speaker as long as he wanted the job. But Gingrich has talked about the possibility of stepping down to run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2000, and Livingston indicated he would be interested in the post if it opens up.
"In the year 2000, the only thing that would keep me in the House is possibly a race for the speakership," he said.
While he ruled out a challenge to Gingrich, Livingston refused to rule out a bid for the speakership if Gingrich was seriously challenged by someone else.
Although he had said he hoped to earn several times his current salary as a Washington lawyer and lobbyist, Livingston said yesterday he was content to live on his annual congressional salary of $136,673 for another couple of years. "I came in broke and I still am and I will be when I leave. . . . We'll put up with it a little longer," he said.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company