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Blute says he won't challenge Kennedy

Cites family considerations

Peter Blute, a former Republican congressman and executive director of the Massachusetts Port Authority, said yesterday he has decided not to challenge US Senator Edward M. Kennedy this fall, possibly leaving the Massachusetts Democrat without a reelection opponent for the first time in his 43-year Senate career.

Blute, who most recently worked as a radio talk-show host in Boston, told The Associated Press: ''I would have enjoyed a race about the future of our country in a time of war, but in the final analysis, it came down to a family decision. This would have been a full-tilt, 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week race for the rest of the year and I would have missed too much time with my wife and kids."

Nonetheless, the Shrewsbury Republican would not rule out a run for lieutenant governor, should one of the existing gubernatorial candidates choose to tap him as a running mate.

''I could be persuaded because that's a much more manageable race," Blute said. ''If [convenience store magnate] Christy Mihos or somebody asked me, I would consider it. But it looks like to me that Christy is positioning himself to run as an independent."

Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey is seeking the Republican gubernatorial nomination and is expected to announce a running mate within the next two weeks.

Kennedy, who turned 74 on Wednesday, was in Washington and could not immediately be reached for comment. In speaking with reporters Wednesday during a visit to Boston, he said he was committed to a vigorous campaign regardless of Blute's then-pending decision.

Blute, a 50-year-old former state representative who served in Congress from 1993 to 1997, won five of six elections over the course of his career.

His public image was battered in 1999, when he took a boat cruise on Boston Harbor with a young woman who flashed her breasts at a Boston Herald photographer.

Blute has helped rehabilitate his image with a high-profile stint as a talk-show host on WRKO-AM, and he was recruited for a senatorial campaign both by Governor Mitt Romney, GOP officials in the White House, the Republican National Committee, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

A campaign against Kennedy, however, would have been a challenge.

The senator already has $8.6 million in his reelection account and labor unions are organizing to support him.

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