WASHINGTON (AP) -- Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt is stepping down after eight years as House Democratic leader, looking ahead to a possible run for the White House and leaving behind a succession struggle in a party jolted by midterm election losses.
Gephardt, 61, informed party leaders Wednesday night he will not seek a fifth term as House minority leader, according to several officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. Senior aides said he would make his intentions public Thursday, although no formal announcement was scheduled.
Gephardt told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in an interview Wednesday that he decided to leave his leadership post after discussions with his family and longtime advisers following Democrats' failure to make gains in the House in Tuesday's elections.
"We didn't get to the goal line," Gephardt told the paper. "We didn't score the touchdown. I'm sorry about that, but I'm proud of what I did, proud of what they did. Now I've talked with my family, and I've come to the conclusion that it's time for someone else to take a crack."
Even before a public declaration though, the lawmakers who rank second and third in the party hierarchy, Reps. Nancy Pelosi of California and Martin Frost of Texas, launched a race to replace Gephardt and try to lead the party back into power.
Aides said Gephardt would remain in Congress.
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