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Benton Will Run For House

State Sen. Don Benton says he has decided to run for the congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Linda Smith, and he urged another likely candidate to support him instead of challenging him in the Republican primary.

“I will be a candidate,” Benton told The Columbian newspaper.

The 3rd Congressional District race is wide open since Smith, R-Wash., is running for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Patty Murray.

Benton, 40, has represented the 17th Legislative District in the state Senate for a year. He is serving a four-year term, so he would keep his seat if he loses the congressional bid. He also served two years as a state House member from the 17th District.

Benton formed an exploratory committee in December. That same week, Pat Fiske, Smith’s top staffer and also a former state legislator, said he might run to replace Smith.

“It’s my hope I’ll be able to demonstrate to Pat and everybody else that I’ll be the most viable candidate to beat (Democrat) Brian Baird,” Benton said. Baird, a college instructor from Olympia, barely lost to Smith in 1996.

Two other Republicans already in the race are chiropractor Paul Phillips of Camas and family physician Rick Jackson of Meadow Glade, near Battle Ground.

The 3rd Congressional District includes all or parts of nine counties in southwestern Washington.