BISMARCK (AP) - Gov. John Hoeven says he needs more time to mull his options and consult his family about whether to challenge Sen. Byron Dorgan in 2010.
''Obviously, we've received encouragement from a lot of people ... but it's a family decision, and that's how we're approaching it,'' the Republican governor told The Associated Press this week. ''We'll just have to make (a decision) on our own timeline, and we just haven't set a deadline.''
Gary Emineth, the state GOP chairman, has said he wants to announce by Labor Day which Republicans will challenge Dorgan and North Dakota Democrat Rep. Earl Pomeroy. Hoeven said in June he thought that a reasonable timeline.
Fargo architect and political newcomer Paul Sorum has already expressed interest in a race against the Democratic incumbent, who is running for his fourth term. Republicans regard Hoeven, who was elected to his third term last year with 74 percent of the vote, as the best potential challenger.
Emineth said any Dorgan opponent will need an early fundraising start for what would certainly be an expensive contest. Dorgan already has more than $3.5 million in his campaign fund.
''It's plenty early, but obviously the sooner he makes an announcement, the better,'' Emineth said. ''I think the biggest issue by announcing early is, you have a spokesperson to go head-to-head with Sen. Dorgan on the issues ... and second of all, it's really about money.''
Joe Aronson, director of the state Democratic Party, said Hoeven would be a ''hard sell'' if he chooses to run for the Senate. Aronson said since the governor was elected last year to his third four-year term - a first among North Dakota governors - voters may not appreciate him leaving before his current term ends.
''It will be hard to convince (voters) to replace a U.S. senator that they like and gets things done for our state with a governor who leaves in the middle of his term to become a freshman senator in the minority party,'' Aronson said.
Democrats control both chambers in Congress.
North Dakota Democrats and Republicans will endorse their statewide political candidates at their party conventions in March. Republicans will meet in Grand Forks from March 19-21, and Democrats will convene in Fargo the following week.
Emineth said a Dorgan versus Hoeven race would be nationally prominent, comparing the matchup to South Dakota Republican John Thune's successful 2004 challenge to U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle, who was then the Senate's Democratic leader. Daschle spent $21.3 million on the race while Thune spent $14.7 million.
Hoeven could establish an exploratory committee, which would allow him to raise money for a Senate campaign without formally declaring his candidacy. He declined to talk about that option.