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Democrats scored a major recruiting coup last week when state Sen. John Unger II (D) announced that he would challenge Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) in 2008.

“I have a long record of standing up for the priorities of the people I serve and seeking innovative solutions to the challenges we face,” Unger, a nine-year veteran of the state Senate, said in a statement.

Democratic Reps. Nick Rahall and Alan Mollohan joined Unger for his announcement news conference in Charleston, and Unger has the enthusiastic support of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Capito’s first race in 2000 was a nail-biter, but she’s won by fairly comfortable margins since then. Still, even though her central West Virginia district trends conservative —President Bush took 57 percent of the vote there in 2004 — Democrats believe they have a serious shot, especially as the president’s poll ratings continue to sag.

Unger has worked as a missionary for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and also has been an international relief worker in Iraq, both in the 1991 Gulf War and in 2003.

“Based on the rave reviews he has received from the West Virginia Democratic community, and on the compelling life story he presents, John emerged as one of our strongest and most impressive national prospects in the 2008 cycle,” said Rep. Artur Davis (Ala.), the DCCC’s recruiting chairman. “He is the kind of moderate Democrat who can win in West Virginia.”

But Capito, the daughter of former Gov. Arch Moore (R), remains formidable. She had $135,000 in her campaign account as of March 31.

— Josh Kurtz

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