Alabama's Heflin to retire from Senate

March 30, 1995|By Knight-Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON -- Alabama Democrat Howell Heflin -- one of the most distinctive voices in the U.S. Senate -- announced yesterday that he would not run for re-election in 1996.

"Simply put, the time to pass the torch to another generation is near," Mr. Heflin said in a speech on the Senate floor.

The timing of Mr. Heflin's announcement was unexpected, but his retirement was not. Over the past two years, Mr. Heflin, 73, has been treated repeatedly for heart problems and now wears a pacemaker.

Mr. Heflin downplayed his medical problems, saying he felt fine but wanted to return to his hometown of Tuscumbia in the Alabama foothills and be with his wife, son and grandchildren.

Mr. Heflin is the fourth Senate Democrat to announce his retirement this year, and at least three others are contemplating quitting.

None of the retirements, however, epitomizes the South's changing politics like the loss of the towering 6-foot-4 Alabamian with his unmistakable drawl.

As the Republican Party has grown in the South, Mr. Heflin has been among the dwindling number of moderate-to-conservative Democrats who tied the region to its once-proud legacy of Solid South.

Mr. Heflin acknowledged that the days when he could count on re-election by 60 percent or more probably were gone, but he thought he could have been re-elected -- a view that few political watchers would automatically dispute.

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