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Iacocca Says No to Senate; Governor Keeps Looking

May 6, 1991

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) _ Chrysler Corp. Chairman Lee Iacocca on Monday rejected an offer to fill Pennsylvania’s vacant U.S. Senate seat, leaving Gov. Robert P. Casey still struggling to find an appointee.

″After lengthy discussions with my family and close friends, I concluded that I was not prepared to make the commitment necessary to fulfill the heavy responsibilities of a United States Senator,″ Iacocca said.

Chrysler spokesman A. C. Liebler said Casey offered the position to Iacocca last week, then visited the auto executive Thursday in Michigan.

Iacocca, 66, said he was flattered by the offer but was ″looking forward to what I’ll simply call a more ‘normal’ life.″ A native of Allentown, he has not resided in the state for years.

Iacocca votes in Michigan. To run for the seat, under the U.S. Constitution, he would have had to ″inhabit″ Pennsylvania at the time of the Nov. 5 special election. State election officials say an appointee would have to have a residence in the state at the time of the appointment.

Casey’s office had no immediate comment on Iacocca’s withdrawal. On Thursday, Casey denied that he had offered the job to anyone.

Despite Iacocca’s decision, Democratic Party officials close to Casey said the governor will make his selection soon to fill a seat left vacant by the April 4 death of Republican John Heinz, who was killed in a plane-helicopter crash near Philadelphia.

″They’re getting close but they’re not ready to announce,″ one Democrat close to Casey said.

Sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity said former Philadelphia Mayor Bill Green is the apparent front-runner now, but Casey could still come up with a surprise.

Casey’s selection process has been hindered by the decisions of several potential candidates against taking the job. They include U.S. Reps. Bill Gray of Philadelphia and John Murtha of Cambria County; Pittsburgh lawyer Art Rooney II; and Superior Court Judge Kate Ford Elliott.

The governor also has a problem with one candidate who wants the job, Lt. Gov. Mark Singel.

Casey has said he wants Singel to remain as his second-in-command, in part because a Republican, Senate President Pro Tem Robert Jubelirer, would become lieutenant governor if Singel went to the Senate.

Anne B. Anstine, chairman of the Republican State Committee, said Casey’s handling of the Senate appointment ″is embarrassing Pennsylvania.″

″Was it really necessary for Governor Casey to fly to Detroit to recruit a senator for Pennsylvania?″ she said in a statement.

″Now that Lee Iacocca turned Governor Casey down, what other big-name Democrats outside of our state will he offer our U.S. Senate seat to? George McGovern? Walter Mondale? Michael Dukakis? Jane Fonda?″ While Casey is trying to make his choice, several would-be Republican candidates are waiting for U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh to decide if he wants to run in the special election Nov. 5.

Thornburgh, who served two terms as Pennsylvania governor, said he is thinking about running in the special election.

Others who are interested, including state Rep. Stephen Freind of Delaware County and U.S. Rep. Tom Ridge of Erie, said they would not run if Thornburgh does.

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