By Peter Savodnik - 01/11/06 12:00 AM EST
The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) and Republican National Committee (RNC) are pressing John Raese, a West Virginia media mogul, to challenge Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) this year.
Raese is a former state Republican Party chairman who owns radio stations and a newspaper in the state. He ran for the Senate in 1984 and for governor in 1988, both times unsuccessfully.
NRSC spokesman Dan Ronayne said Raese had met with Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.), the committee’s chairwoman. “We’re really excited about this guy, and we hope he gets in,” Ronayne said. Raese also met officials at the White House and the RNC.
Republicans are growing worried about West Virginia, with GOP Rep. Shelley Moore Capito having bowed out of the Senate race and the filing deadline less than three weeks away.
“The party is desperate for somebody to oppose Byrd, who could be vulnerable to the right candidate,” a West Virginia Republican official said.
Gary Abernathy, a former executive director of the state Republican Party, suggested it might not matter whom Republicans tap. “If Byrd’s beatable, it’s because he’s going to beat himself or because people decide he’s been there for too long,” he said.