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Term-limit advocate seeks re-election

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Five years after support for term limits helped him defeat the speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. George Nethercutt has had a change of heart: He wants another term.

Looking more like he was making an apology than an announcement, Nethercutt, R-Wash., on Sunday called his promise to serve only three terms a mistake."I've changed my mind," a penitent Nethercutt told reporters and a handful of staffers at a hastily called news conference. "I made a mistake when I chose to set a limit on my service."

Support for term limits carried Nethercutt to an upset victory over Tom Foley, 15-term congressman and then-speaker of the House, in 1994. Now, Nethercutt will face stiff opposition from one of the groups that helped him win.

U.S. Term Limits, which is based in Washington, D.C., says it will spend $1 million in the 2000 campaign to defeat him.

"I couldn't vote for him again," said Connie Smith, co-chairman of Eastern Washington Term Limits and an ardent supporter of Nethercutt in 1994.

The failure of various term limits laws to hold up in court, and the fact that other states do not limit their congressmen, were factors in his decision to run again, Nethercutt said.

He said he still has a lot to accomplish in Congress, and could not say how many more terms he'll need.

Nethercutt had been waffling for months on his pledge.

"The only people who don't change their minds are in cemeteries and insane asylums," he said Sunday.

State Republican leaders have been urging Nethercutt to run, as they seek to preserve the GOP majority in the House.

Nethercutt was easily re-elected twice while vowing to keep his pledge to serve only three terms.

Foley, now U.S. ambassador to Japan, declined to comment on Nethercutt's decision to run for re-election.

U.S. Term Limits says six of 10 House members whose self-imposed term limits expire with this Congress are honoring them, including Reps. Jack Metcalf, R-Wash., and Helen Chenoweth, R-Idaho.