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Brown confirms he will challenge DeWine for Senate seat

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U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown

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U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown confirmed to The Blade today that he will challenge incumbent Mike DeWine for a U.S. Senate seat in 2006, setting the stage for a Democratic primary fight.

The Congressman from suburban Cleveland said his family supports his decision, which he plans to announce formally in three weeks.

The move sets up a primary: An aide to another potential Democratic challenger, Iraq war veteran and former Congressional candidate Paul Hackett, said today that Mr. Hackett still plans to enter the Senate race officially on Oct. 24.

Mr. DeWine said today he did not care who his opponent would be, and that he was more focused on President Bush s new Supreme Court nominee than on re-election.

Ohio has always been a very competitive state, and I m sure it will be like that in this election, Mr. DeWine said.

The director of Mr. Brown s campaign committee said last night that the congressman would offer an announcement in public today, but Mr. Brown did not make one. Instead, he phoned newspaper editors to discuss his plans.

A Web site affiliated with Mr. Brown, www.growohio.org, promised its readers news tonight.

The Blade reported this morning that two sources who spoke face-to-face with Mr. Brown in Columbus yesterday confirmed that the congressman would enter the race.

Democrats have considered Mr. DeWine, a two-term Republican, vulnerable for months based on mounting GOP scandals in Ohio and his weak showing in several national polls.

No prominent Democrat stepped forward to challenge Mr. DeWine until this week. Mr. Brown publicly ruled out a Senate bid in August.

On Monday, Mr. Brown s press secretary said he was reconsidering. Meanwhile, Mr. Hackett who narrowly lost a special election for Congress in a heavily Republican district near Cincinnati in August signaled Monday he would enter the race.

Both Mr. Hackett and Mr. Brown have tapped internet blogs to build their support bases.

But Mr. Brown would appear to hold two early advantages over Mr. Hackett by traditional political standards: He has won statewide office before, and he has banked nearly $2 million that could be used in a race for the Senate.

Before Mr. Hackett s and Mr. Brown s decisions this week, national analysts ranked Ohio as a state that could be among the nation s most hotly contested Senate races next year, but only if a strong Democrat entered the race.

Republicans professed indifference to the Democratic candidate go-round.

A spokesman for the national Republican Senatorial Committee, Brian Nick, said this week that Mr. DeWine was in great position to defend his seat against whomever his opponent may end up being.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com.

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