Nethercutt challenges Murray - Sheahan, Sterk consider House
Washington State - Republican George Nethercutt's announcement that he will challenge incumbent Democrat Patty Murray for her U.S. Senate seat sets up a pair of historic political races for the 2004 election.
To win, Nethercutt would have to break the 69-year lock that West Side politicians have had on U.S. Senate seats.
His run for the Senate leaves his House seat up for grabs. There hasn't been a race for an open seat in Washington's 5th Congressional District for 60 years.
Two Republicans, state Sen. Larry Sheahan of South Spokane and Spokane County Sheriff Mark Sterk, already are close to announcing they will seek the open House seat.
"I'm not going to announce my intentions, but I'm real excited about the prospects," said Sheahan, who expected to make a campaign announcement "very soon."
Sterk said he already is forming campaign committee, and could make his candidacy official as soon as today.
Sheahan and Sterk, who served together in the state House of Representatives, are friends and were once roommates in Olympia. Both said they would not make official announcements Wednesday to avoid shifting the spotlight from Nethercutt.
Democrats have several prospects, but don't have anyone ready to jump into the House race in the next few days, Spokane County Chairman Tom Keefe said.
"I'm going to do what I can to see that we do not have a contested primary," Keefe said.
That's the same goal Republicans have for Nethercutt's run against Murray.
Nethercutt made his rumored candidacy official on Wednesday by announcing he was filing his paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission. His formal announcement, with supporters and fanfare, will come later, sometime between Labor Day and Thanksgiving.
"I wanted to announce this now while I'm here in the district," said Nethercutt, who is in the Inland Northwest while the House takes a one-month break. "With this question answered, I can move ahead. There's a lot of (congressional) work to be done."
He has been at the top of the Republicans' short list of candidates to oppose Murray ever since U.S. Rep. Jennifer Dunn of Bellevue turned down the race in April.
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