MEMPHIS, March 15 (UPI) -- The race to succeed U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., in 2006 kicked up a notch as ex-U.S. Rep. Van Hilleary declared for the seat.
Seventeen months before the primary and a year before the candidate qualifying deadline, Hilleary is the fourth Republican to enter the race. He joins former GOP Rep. Ed Bryant, Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker and state Rep. and former Tennessee GOP Chairman Beth Harwell -- all of whom once to succeed Frist in the Senate when he steps down to honor a self-imposed 12-year term limit.
The two announced Democratic candidates are U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. and state Sen. Rosalind Kurita, the Memphis Commercial-Appeal said Tuesday.
It will be the second statewide bid for three of the four Republicans. Hilleary was the unsuccessful GOP nominee for governor in 2002, losing by 3 percentage points to Democrat Phil Bredesen. Bryant lost a Republican Senate primary to former Gov. Lamar Alexander the same year. Corker was one of five candidates who lost the 1994 GOP senatorial primary to Frist.
Hilleary, a lawyer and registered Washington lobbyist who now lives in Murfreesboro, had been conducting exploratory talks statewide for several months.