Republican state Sen. Don Benton of Vancouver on Thursday took the first step toward running for the 3rd Congressional District seat that Linda Smith is giving up.
The Southwest Washington district is becoming a battleground, with national Democrats calling it one of their Top 5 prospects and Republicans hoping to hold onto a seat they’ve held for the past two terms.
Benton, a proven vote-getter in populous Clark County, announced formation of an exploratory committee. That step, which involves testing the political waters and early fund-raising, usually leads to a formal declaration of candidacy a few months later.
Benton said he wants to find out whether he can generate enough grassroots support and $1 million in campaign money to win the nomination next September and the main event in November.
“I feel confident that the exploratory committee will reveal that there is substantial support for my candidacy. I am prepared, should that happen, to move forward with a very aggressive campaign,” he said in a telephone interview.
If elected to Congress, Benton said his top priority would be repealing the federal tax code and replacing it with a simpler system, possibly a form of the often-proposed flat tax.
Benton is in his first term in the state Senate from the 17th District, after serving in the House. He is vice chairman of both the Senate Transportation and the Financial Institutions, Insurance and Housing committees. He also is on the powerful Rules Committee and the Health & Long-term Care Committee.
Benton would become the third Republican candidate. Family physician Rick Jackson and chiropractor Paul Phillips, both of Vancouver, have announced.
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