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Federal File: Bowing Out

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Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander said last week that he has no firm plans for life after the end of the Bush Administration, but indicated that he would at least consider a run for the Presidency in 1996.

At a lunch meeting with reporters, Mr. Alexander said he will not seriously ponder his future until President-elect Bill Clinton moves into the White House in January. At that point, the Secretary will go home to Nashville to consider his options.

Mr. Alexander said he is "more likely to affiliate with a law firm'' than to take another education-related job. He "never intended to get involved in education,'' he explained, but decided when he was Governor of Tennessee that his state could not prosper without improved schools.

"I may follow my usual impulse and write a book,'' he said, "about what I've learned about the country'' as Secretary.

When asked whether he would consider seeking the Republican nomination in 1996, or running for the Tennessee Senate seat that will open up when Sen. Al Gore becomes Vice President, Mr. Alexander said he had not considered the question, but implied that he might.

"Being a candidate for President is not a casual thought,'' he said. "I'd have to sit down and think about it.''

Mr. Alexander said his main regret is that he will not be able to follow through on the initiatives he launched over the past 18 months.

He said he did not regret having placed a heavy emphasis on a private school voucher proposal, asserting that Congress would not have accepted the rest of his agenda even if he had dropped its most controversial item.

"We decided at the beginning not to waste a lot of time with Congress,'' Mr. Alexander said.

He said his strategy was to persuade a critical mass of communities to sign on with America 2000, so that in a second Bush term they would have put pressure on their representatives to put some money behind the program.

As for choice, the Administration planned to hold up reauthorization of elementary and secondary education programs unless a choice program was included.

Mr. Alexander was clearly relieved to be able to drop the attack posture he had assumed on behalf of Mr. Bush's campaign.

The Secretary praised Mr. Clinton's work on national education policy and noted that they had worked closely together as leaders of the National Governors' Association.

"I think he has the opportunity to be a very good'' education President, Mr. Alexander said.-J.M.

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