Democratic Rep. Brad Ellsworth said Friday he will seek Evan Bayh's Indiana Senate seat, a newspaper reported.
The Evansville Courier & Press said the 51-year-old Ellsworth made his announcement Friday in his hometown Evansville.
A Democratic Party official told The Associated Press that Ellsworth would ask state party officials to place him on the November ballot. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because an announcement had not yet been made.
The two-term congressman emerged as a leading possible choice for Democrats after Bayh's unexpected announcement Monday that he wouldn't seek a third Senate term.
Ellsworth is considered an attractive candidate because he won by big margins in both his campaigns his largely rural congressional district in southwestern Indiana after eight years as sheriff of the district's largest county.
Liz Farrar, a spokeswoman for Ellsworth, wasn't immediately available for comment. A political ally of Ellsworth's on Friday morning filed for the May primary in his congressional district.
When state Rep. Trent Van Haaften, D-Mount Vernon, was asked whether his filing for the congressional seat indicated Ellsworth's Senate decision, he said: "I am confident I will not be running against my friend Brad Ellsworth."
Ellsworth is regarded as a moderate Democrat like Bayh, having positioned himself as a fiscal conservative and an abortion opponent. But even before his decision, national Republicans began criticizing his votes in favor of the banking system bailout and last year's stimulus package backed by President Barack Obama.
Other candidates could be considered by the state Democratic Party's 32-member central committee, which will pick the nominee since no one met this week's filing deadline for the May 4 primary.
Rep. Baron Hill has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the Senate nomination and Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. has said he is interested.
Former Sen. Dan Coats, who left office in 1998, is being backed by national Republicans in what is a crowded field in the primary for the GOP nomination. Other candidates include former Rep. John Hostettler — whom Ellsworth unseated in 2006 — and state Sen. Marlin Stutzman.
Hostettler said after filing his candidacy on Wednesday that he'd welcome another race against Ellsworth.
"Someone that ran as someone that was not very liberal in 2006 has a very different record that he gets to run on this time," Hostettler said.
Ellsworth unseated the six-term Hostettler in 2006 with 61 percent of the vote and won re-election with a nearly 65 percent support in 2008.
He's also been a successful campaign fundraiser — an important attribute going into his first statewide race with the November election little more than eight months away. He ended 2009 with more than $500,000 in his campaign fund and raised nearly $1.6 million for his 2008 campaign.
Associated Press writers Ken Kusmer and Tom Davies in Indianapolis contributed to this report.
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