(CNN) - Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee whose approval ratings have sharply fallen as the nation's economy sputters, will have to defend his seat against at least one high-profile Connecticut Republican.
Former Rep. Rob Simmons, a three-term congressman who represented the eastern half of the state, said Sunday he has decided to mount a challenge against Dodd in 2010.
Speaking to CNN, Simmons said the decision came after a long discussion with his family.
"I met with the family Sunday and over the weekend I had long talks and we decided to go forward," he said. "We will be filing papers and doing all the administrative stuff in the next couple of weeks and then we will have a rollout in early April."
Simmons, once among the few remaining Republicans in the Northeast, lost his seat in 2006 by a razor-thin margin to Democrat Joe Courtney after a race that largely turned on Simmons' support of the war in Iraq.
But the Vietnam veteran and former CIA agent - is largely considered a moderate Republican of the traditional New England mold, supporting abortion rights and overall fiscal conservativism. He's also said same-sex marriage should be a state issue.
In a recent survey from Quinnipiac University, Simmons holds a statistically insignificant 1 percentage point lead over Dodd, 43 percent to 42 percent.
National Democrats were quick to take aim at Simmons Monday, painting him as a one-time Bush ally with ties to disgraced GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff and former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.
“Rob Simmons is no moderate – he was a staunch supporter of George Bush’s failed economic policies and this race will be an opportunity to hold him accountable for that record,” said Eric Schultz, the communications director at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Specifically, the DSCC notes Simmons held a fundraiser at Abramoff's Washington, DC restaurant in 2004 and received campaign donations from his wife, Pamela. He also received nearly $40,000 from a political action committee run by Delay, who resigned his seat amid legal problems in 2006.
Dodd, a five term Senator who ran for president in 2008, has come under sharp criticism for failing to reign in Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae during his tenure as head of the Senate banking committee. Dodd also faces a Senate ethics committee investigation over favorable mortgage rates he received under the Countrywide VIP program.
CNBC host Larry Kudlow has also indicated he is considering running against Dodd in 2010.
UPDATE 2:30 p.m. ET: Simmons confirms to CNN he is running