WASHINGTON — Senate Budget Committee Chairman Lawton Chiles (D-Fla.) announced Monday that he will retire because of job "burnout," becoming the third Senate committee chairman to announce he will not run for reelection in 1988.
"I just wasn't looking forward to another six years in the Senate," Chiles said at a news conference. "Maybe at some stage there is a little burnout."
The three-term senator said he was not worried about competition in his reelection campaign, and his health remains good despite open-heart surgery two years ago.
"I think our campaign was in very good shape," Chiles said. "It was the next six years that I was concerned about, not the campaign."
Chiles, 57, is the youngest of the three Democratic senators not seeking reelection, all of them committee chairmen. The others are Sens. John C. Stennis, 86, of Mississippi, head of the Appropriations Committee, and William Proxmire, 72, of Wisconsin, chairman of the Banking Committee.
Republicans Paul S. Trible Jr. of Virginia, Daniel J. Evans of Washington and Robert T. Stafford of Vermont also have announced plans to leave the Senate.
With Chiles out of the race, several Democrats are expected to consider bids for their party's nomination, including Rep. Buddy MacKay, who unsuccessfully ran for the Senate in 1980; Insurance Commissioner Bill Gunter, and Florida House Speaker Jon Mills.
On the GOP side, Rep. Connie Mack had already entered the race against Chiles.
Chiles entered the U.S. Senate in 1971, after earlier serving 12 years in the Florida Legislature. He won the 1980 statewide election after touring the state on foot and becoming known as "Walkin' Lawton."
He repeated that campaign tactic as recently as this last Thanksgiving, when he says doubts about staying in the Senate came to a head.
"I recently had an opportunity to go home and walk a little in my state . . . listen to my inner voice," he said. What he found out, he said, was that he had a "different feeling" for the job.
"I didn't have the enthusiasm for it, and I think the people of Florida are entitled to that," he said. In addition, he said, "the Senate has changed," becoming more complex and bureaucratic.
Sought Deficit Cuts
Chiles took over the chairmanship of the Budget Committee this year. A moderate, he proposed reducing the deficit with tax increases and spending cuts.
But he was frustrated by months of stalemate, and then he participated in the four weeks of talks that produced a budget pact with the White House.
"It's been a horrendous year, no doubt about that," Chiles said.
With Chiles' retirement, Tennessee Sen. Jim Sasser would appear to be next in line to become chairman of the Budget Committee if the Democrats retain control of the Senate in the 1988 elections.
Chiles said he intends to keep serving as chairman through next year, and then would spend time with his family and figure out his next task.
"I think there's something out there for me," he said. "I don't have anything specific in mind right now."