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Retired Oil Man Eyes Domenici Challenge

Sen. Pete Domenici (R), who hoped that his strong fundraising performance in the second quarter of the year would dispel rumors that he may retire rather than seek a seventh term in 2008, may face a challenge from the right in next June’s Republican primary.

Retired oil company executive Spiro Vassilopoulos told New Mexico political blogger Joe Monahan this week that he is taking steps to run against Domenici. Vassilopoulos, who spent his teen years in Iran, told Monahan that Domenici’s recent criticism of the Iraq War, along with his moderate stance on immigration reform, is primarily what’s motivating him to consider making the race.

Vassilopoulos said Domenici’s call to change course in Iraq “was pure poison for our guys” serving there.

Although it is difficult to imagine Vassilopoulos inflicting much damage on Domenici in a primary, the very fact that there is some dissent in the GOP must encourage Democrats, who are continuing to search for a top-flight challenger and privately hope that the 75-year-old Senator decides to retire.

In a conference call with New Mexico radio reporters this week, Domenici, who raised more than $600,000 in the second quarter of the year, said he did not know Vassilopoulos and was unfazed by the prospect of a primary challenge.

“I don’t believe he’ll run,” the Senator said. “Let’s see. I’m glad to have anybody who adds to the competition. … If he wants to run, good luck to him.”
-Josh Kurtz

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