(CNSNews.com) - New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, on Wednesday informed the state that yes, she will run for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican-turned-Independent-turned Republican Bob Smith.
"The people of this state need a champion who is going to work for them in Washington," Shaheen said in her announcement on Wednesday.
Democrats are thrilled, because they consider Shaheen a good bet to defeat the incumbent Republican, Smith, who also faces a challenge from a fellow Republican. Three-term U.S. Rep. John Sununu says he also hopes to replace Smith, a conservative who angered some of his constituents when he briefly left the GOP in 1999.
At the time, Smith gave a blistering speech, accusing the Republican Party of paying only lip service to conservative issues that mattered most to him. "The party, to put it bluntly, is hypocritical," he said.
Recent polls indicate a Smith-Shaheen matchup would be a very close race, and that Sununu's candidacy has a chance, too. Press reports say Shaheen is attracting strong support from top Democrats and their political action committees.
Visiting New Hampshire to campaign for Shaheen may be a particularly attractive proposition for some of those Democrats, who have an eye on the presidency - and New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary.
On Wednesday, asked why she decided to run, Shaheen joked, "Hey, the Patriots won the Super Bowl. I'm feeling lucky."
See Earlier Story:
Mr. Smith Goes Independent (13 July 1999)
Smith Quits Presidential Race (28 Oct. 1999)
Smith Announces Plans To Seek Re-Election in 2002 (9 Dec. 1999)