Honoring her 1992 pledge to limit her service to four terms, Rep. Tillie Fowler (R-Fla.) announced yesterday she would not run for reelection this year.

When she joined the GOP leadership last year as conference vice chairman, Fowler considered violating that pledge, but she came under intense criticism from term-limit advocates. Appearing yesterday in Jacksonville, in the same room where she announced her first congressional bid, Fowler said she had honored her 1992 vow: "If you will join with me, we will change Congress."

As the highest-ranking woman in the House GOP, Fowler's departure is sure to set off a competitive frenzy for her post. Democrats are less sure about their chances of capturing her seat this fall--Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Erik Smith called winning Fowler's seat an "uphill" fight.

Republican presidential nominee Robert J. Dole won the district by 19 percentage points in 1996 even while losing the state, and Fowler ran unopposed in the last three elections. Republicans yesterday mentioned state Sen. Jim Horne and retired admiral Kevin Delaney as possible contenders in the race to replace Fowler.

Smith noted that Fowler's announcement marked the GOP's 21st retirement this election cycle, compared with six for the Democrats. Another top GOP leader, Conference Chairman J.C. Watts (Okla.), is deliberating whether to run for reelection in 2000. "The most hazardous place to be in Washington is between House Republicans and the exit," Smith said.

Republicans said that Fowler had kept GOP leaders apprised of her thinking and had consistently indicated she was planning to keep her pledge to serve four terms.

"We have nothing but respect for Congresswoman Fowler," said National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Jill Schroeder.

Is There a Republican in the Web Site?

The Democratic National Committee apparently likes to put a bit of spin on its weekly Web site polling questions: "As the nation approaches a new millennium, what are the most important priorities facing our next president?" the site asked this week.

"* Saving Social Security, strengthening Medicare, and paying down the debt

"* Implementing George W. Bush's $1.7 trillion risky tax scheme that overwhelmingly benefits the wealthy

"* Other"

So which would the fiscally responsible Democrats prefer? As of yesterday afternoon, 78.5 percent (2,148) wanted Bush's risky tax scheme. Only 17.1 percent (467) gave a hoot about Social Security, Medicare or the debt. 4.5 percent (123) voted for "other."

The DNC, noting the numbers are much higher than usual, claims GOP sabotage. But who knows? Maybe Happy Days Are Here Again?

Staff writer Al Kamen contributed to this report.