New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley will not run for a fourth term next year and will not challenge President Clinton in the Democratic presidential primaries, a congressional source said Wednesday. His sudden retirement further fades Democratic hopes of regaining the Senate in 1996.
Bradley, who had been mentioned as a presidential contender the past two elections, scheduled a noon speech to friends and supporters in Newark, N.J., to announce his reasons for retirement. His office said it would not comment until then.Five Democrats have already said they are retiring: Paul Simon of Illinois, David Pryor of Arkansas, Bennett Johnston of Louisiana, James Exon of Nebraska, and Howell Heflin of Alabama.
Claiborne Pell, D-R.I., has not made an announcement yet but is not expected to seek re-election. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., has not made a decision.
Democrats in the Senate already are down 54-46, after losing two senators in post-election party switches - Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado and Richard Shelby of Alabama.
Bradley, 52, had left open the door earlier this year to challenging Clinton and criticized the president repeatedly on issues from Soviet policy to the budget. But the source said Wednesday that Bradley would not run against Clinton.
Elected in 1978 after a pro basketball career with the New York Knicks, Bradley faced easy re-election in 1984 over Mary Mochary. But he stumbled in 1990 against Christie Whitman after she made issues of his out-of-state fund-raising and refusal to comment on then-Gov. Jim Florio's tax increases.
His fund-raising efforts for what was expected to be a tough challenge next year were lagging, and Republicans had already targeted him as vulnerable.
Rep. Dick Zimmer, a three-term Republican from central New Jersey, has emerged as the leading GOP contender. He has more than $1.1 million in the bank as of June 30, nearly doubling the $600,000 that Bradley had raised.
Democrats who might now consider a run include Rep. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J.