[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/17/art.brunner.gi.jpg caption=" The Senate Democratic primary race is likely to be competitive."](CNN) - Two of the biggest names in Ohio Democratic politics launched campaigns for the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, setting up a high-profile primary battle for the right to face off against Republican Rob Portman in 2010.
Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher are both seeking the seat left open by Republican senator George Voinovich, who announced his retirement in January.
Brunner, perhaps best known outside Ohio for involvement in voter registration lawsuits in the weeks before to the 2008 presidential election, announced her bid this afternoon in email and web video sent to supporters.
Citing her experience as a small business owner and taking cues from President Obama’s economic recovery plan, she sketched a rough plan for job creation in a state with an unemployment rate approaching 8 percent.
“We’ve come too far to send the same people who got us into this crisis back to Washington,” Brunner said in a web video, a likely reference to Portman, a former congressman and top official in the Bush administration.
Fisher, who had already opened an exploratory committee and has the backing of Ohio’s popular governor, Ted Strickland, was not about to cede tomorrow’s headlines to his new rival.
Shortly after Brunner’s announcement, Fisher organized an evening press conference at the state house in Columbus to formally announce his candidacy, according to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.
Both Democrats lead Portman in a hypothetical matchup, with Fisher holding a slight advantage in surveys.
According to a Quinnipiac poll of Ohio registered voters released earlier this month, Fisher leads Portman 42 to 27 percent, with 29 percent undecided. Brunner holds a 38 to 28 percent edge over Portman, with 31 percent undecided.