In a surprise announcement last month, U.S. Rep. Frank Riggs, R.-Windsor, announced that he will not seek a fourth term in Congress this year and will run instead for the Republican right to challenge U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer.

The front-runner in that race is state Treasurer Matt Fong. Businessman Darrell Issa, a more conservative candidate is also in the race and financing his own campaign. Boxer is expected to have little or no opposition for her party's nomination.

According to some political analysts, Riggs' move nearly cements the election of state Sen. Mike Thompson, D.-Napa, a popular Democrat who was challenging Riggs and leading in some polls. But Humboldt County Republican party chair John Fullerton said Republicans are not ready to concede the congressional seat.

"Remember Frank Riggs came from nowhere in 1990 to beat (incumbent Democrat Doug) Bosco," he said. Party officials are meeting the first weekend in February to unite behind one candidate to replace Riggs, Fullerton added.

Riggs hired Ed Rollins, a former White House aide and the architect of President Ronald Reagan's 49-state landslide re-election in 1984, as his chief strategist.

In an interview with the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Riggs said his Senate campaign has it roots in political opportunity, a self-imposed term limit and the death of Rep. Sonny Bono, a close friend who was killed in a skiing accident in early January at Lake Tahoe.

Riggs said Bono encouraged him to run and pledged his support and help in fund raising.

In local election news last month: Al Decker, a Republican from Redway whose claim to fame is hitting Maxxam Corp. chief Charles Hurwitz with a pie, announced he will run for Riggs' seat. Fullerton said, however, that Decker "is not a real Republican," and the party will not be backing him.

"His ideas are more aligned with the Green Party, I think," Fullerton said. Decker, who has moved his headquarters to Arcata, said he "wants to put the word 'conserve' back into conservative."


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