Washington (CNN) - Vermont Auditor Tom Salmon announced late Wednesday that he is seriously considering challenging Sen. Bernie Sanders in 2012, an independent who has represented the state for two decades on Capitol Hill.
Salmon, a former Democrat who switched to the Republican Party in the fall of 2009, told voters at that time his fiscal ideology was more in line with the GOP. He was first elected auditor in 2006, and acknowledged that it will be difficult to defeat Sanders next year.
"I understand that a campaign against an incumbent like Senator Sanders is no easy task," said Salmon, who was re-elected auditor as a Republican in 2010. "At the same time, I believe that no one is entitled to re-election year after year after year. No one is entitled to any office. Democracy only works when our elected officials are held accountable each and every election cycle through vigorous debate, an airing of the facts, and an examination of the record."
Salmon's father served as Vermont's governor in the 1970's.
Sanders was first elected to the Senate in 2006, trouncing his Republican opponent by a more than 2-to1 margin. He previously served 16 years in the House. While he describes his political ideology as independent, Sanders aligns himself with the Democrats and is part of the party's 53 seat majority in the chamber.
Vermont will be a difficult pick-up for Republicans in 2012. It is a solid Democratic state: President Obama carried it in 2008 and veteran Sen. Patrick Leahy easily won a seventh term in 2010. A Republican operative, who has been following the race, acknowledged that "it will be very difficult to beat Sanders," but added that Salmon is "a very credible candidate in a state that is very difficult for Republicans."
While Republicans face a tough challenge in Vermont, the overall electoral map favors the GOP at this time. Democrats must defend 23 seats, while Republicans only need to protect 10 in 2012.
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