A Challenger to Elizabeth Dole?

Kirk Ross in this week's 'Carrboro Citizen':

Jim Neal, a key Democratic Party fundraiser, is on the verge of announcing a run for U.S. Senate, sources close to Neal say.

Neal, a native of Greensboro who now lives in Chapel Hill, will head to Asheville this weekend for the Vance-Aycock Dinner, a traditional gathering of Democratic Party movers and shakers and a place where potential candidates often test the waters. He is expected to file official paperwork as early as this week.

Neal was a top fundraiser for the John Kerry and John Edwards ticket in 2004 and a major supporter of Gen. Wesley Clark's bid for the Democratic nomination that year.

He is a former investment banker and is currently a financial advisor.

Dole, a one-term incumbent who has already announced for re-election, has been raising money in preparation for the race. A recent Elon Poll found that 53 percent of respondents indicated they are satisfied or very satisfied with the senator's representation of North Carolina and 24 percent disapproved or strongly disapproved.

But both Democratic and Republican election handicappers say Dole is vulnerable because of her support of President Bush's Iraq policies. The same poll shows that only 32 percent of North Carolinians polled approved of her job performance on Iraq and 78 percent -- the highest percentage -- said the war will influence their vote in 2008.

Sounds like a party insider with money and connections. Not a very familiar name, though. We'll wait and see.

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