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Sheriff May Re-enter Michigan Senate Primary

A Michigan sheriff who earlier this year declined to challenge Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) in 2006 because of health concerns is reconsidering the race.

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard (R) pulled an in-and-out move in February, joining the race and then pulling the plug on his nascent campaign a week later, citing unspecified health problems.

Now the sheriff is saying he is physically well and mulling a Senate bid.

“I’ve had a lot of people from not only Michigan, but elsewhere, encourage me to take a look at it again, and so I am,” Bouchard told The Associated Press on Friday afternoon.

He did not return a call seeking comment before press time Friday.

The former state Senator said he had some heart problems this winter, though he never went into great detail, and that his health is no longer a factor.

Some Washington, D.C., sources said late Friday that Bouchard definitely is running, but Michigan Republicans would not confirm that.

“He was very, very close to being in the race before his health problem came up and now once again he’s considering being in the race,” said Nate Bailey, spokesman for the Michigan Republican Party. “All of this is a reflection of how vulnerable Debbie Stabenow is and how eager Republicans in Michigan are to send a new Senator to Washington.”

According to recent polls, if the election were held today, Stabenow would trounce either of her announced challengers, the Rev. Keith Butler, a former Detroit city councilman, and Jerry Zandstra, a minister from western Michigan.

Nevertheless, in the absence of a top-tier GOP recruit, Michigan Republicans have rallied around Butler.

He has snagged significant early endorsements and raised $1.4 million for his campaign so far.

As of Sept. 30, he had more than $760,000 in the bank.

Bailey is confident of his party’s chances to recapture the seat lost by former Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham (R) in 2000 whether Bouchard makes the race.

“We have a strong field regardless,” Bailey said.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has struggled to coax top-flight challengers into next year’s races and would consider Bouchard a recruiting coup. Oakland County, the jurisdiction where he serves, is a large, Democratic-leaning suburban area outside of Detroit.

Republican operatives in Washington believe Bouchard could quickly drain much of Butler’s support, despite efforts by Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman and other GOP leaders to reach out to black voters and black candidates such as Butler.

The NRSC could not confirm Bouchard’s potential candidacy before press time Friday.

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