U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley does not face his first re-election race until 2014, but there's already a lot of speculation about who Republicans will field to challenge him.

Merkley, who narrowly defeated GOP incumbent U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith in 2008, has made a lot of powerful enemies in Washington, ripping Wall Street and big oil, among other well-heeled interest groups.
Some Republicans had hoped that former Trailblazer Chris Dudley, who narrowly lost the 2010 gubernatorial race to Democrat John Kitzhaber, would take Merkley on. But Dudley earlier this summer moved to California.

Now James Huffman, the former dean of the Lewis & Clark College's Northwestern School of Law, is actively considering entering the race.

"I wouldn't say 'no' and I won't say 'yes,'' Huffman told WW when asked if he will run.

Huffman challenged Sen. Ron Wyden in 2010. Wyden won, 57 percent to 39 percent.

Merkley has less name recognition than Wyden, who entered U.S. House of Representatives in 1981 and moved over to the Senate in 1996. And Huffman, who is well-connected to natural resource industries, would be a better-known, more experienced candidate the second time around.

Huffman, 67, says he still feels strongly that Oregon, which has no Republicans in statewide office, badly needs a more diverse approach to public policy.

"What motivated me to run before could motivate me again," he says. "I don't know if it's a realistic prospect. But I will think long and hard about it."