WASHINGTON — Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), a protege of Majority Leader George J. Mitchell (D-Me.), notified Democratic colleagues Tuesday that he will run for the Senate leadership post.
"I feel that this is the right time for me," Daschle said. "I'm ready to take on that challenge."
Daschle, 46, said he called his potential challengers and had letters delivered to other colleagues announcing his candidacy.
Mitchell announced March 5 that he would not seek reelection to the Senate this year.
Daschle, the first to enter the leadership race, said he had already arranged appointments with a dozen senators to formally solicit their support. Some senators have committed to back him, but he declined to say how many.
"I needed to be convinced that the level of support in South Dakota and the Senate was there," he said.
Other senators may seek the post, including John B. Breaux of Louisiana, Jim Sasser of Tennessee and Wendell H. Ford of Kentucky.
Daschle said he began telephoning Democrats as soon as Mitchell informed him of his decision to retire. He said he wanted to make sure before entering the race that he had a good chance of winning it.