While the GOP presidential primary race has captured most of the media attention, Republicans are also gearing up for the 33 Senate seats on the ballot next year. Democrats currently hold 23 of those seats, and Republicans will need a net win of at least 4 seats to gain control of the Senate. A couple GOP candidates in important races have, or will soon be, announcing runs soon.

According to the Greenwich Time newspaper, former Connecticut congressman Christopher Shays will likely enter the race to replace retiring independent Democratic senator Joseph Lieberman. Shays, who lost his race for reelection to the House in 2008, recently moved back to Connecticut after having lived in Maryland since 2009.

A check of the election rolls in Bridgeport shows that Shays was reinstated late Friday as a voter in that city, where he and his wife Betsi bought a condominium last year when he was entertaining a run for governor.

"I did. Betsi and I excited to be back in Connecticut," Shays, 65, said. "These are all the steps that I am taking so that I can have the opportunity to run for Senate. I hope to be on the ballot next November."

Greenwich Time reports that Shays could face WWE executive and 2010 Senate candidate Linda McMahon in a Republican primary, among others. A July 2011 poll showed the moderate Shays performing the best among other GOP contenders against three-term congressman Chris Murphy, who is the front-runner to win the Democratic primary.

Meanwhile, in Michigan, school choice advocate Clark Durant announced last Thursday he would run for the Republican nomination to challenge two-term incumbent Democratic senator Debbie Stabenow. The 62-year-old Durant, who co-founded a successful charter school system, enters a somewhat crowded Republican field dominated by former congressman Pete Hoekstra. Hoekstra served 18 years in the House before running (and losing) in the GOP primary for governor last year to general election winner Rick Snyder.

While Hoekstra has polled the best among several Republicans in the race, Durant’s entry comes with the support of three heavy hitters in the Michigan GOP: Betsy DeVos, Saul Anuzis, and former senator Spencer Abraham. All three once served as chairs of the state party, and Abraham, who lost reelection to Stabenow in 2000 in an extremely close race, has been the only Republican senator from Michigan in the last three decades.

Here’s an excerpt from a letter signed by DeVos, Anuzis, and Abraham offering their endorsement of Durant:

Clark Durant is not a creature of Washington. Rather, as a true conservative, Clark has devoted himself to demonstrating how freedom and empowerment works at the local level to transform lives, strengthen communities and provide hope for every person to maximize their potential.

Our voice in Washington needs to speak loudly and clearly for Michigan. It needs to rise above the voices that speak only the language of Washington. Our voice should not be afraid to speak loudly about what’s right and about the problems we face. It must speak clearly about the need to end the illogical cycle of trying to address problems with the same failed approaches. Clark Durant will be Michigan’s strong and clear voice in Washington

While Stabenow won her 2006 reelection handily, her seat is among the many Republican targets in 2012, particularly since the GOP found success in Michigan during the 2010 midterm elections.

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