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U.S. Representative Bob Turner, who famously won ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner’s Congressional seat in a September special election, announced today that he will challenge incumbent Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand in the 2012 Senate election.

“I will travel to the Republican State Convention in Rochester later this week and humbly ask for the Republican nomination for the United States Senate,” Turner said in a statement. “There is serious work to be done to get this economy back on track, and I will not walk away from that work now. I will run for the Senate, and I will run to win.”

Republicans hope that Turner, whose Congressional seat will soon be eliminated by redistricting, can provide some competition to Gillibrand, who was expected to coast to an easy re-election. Turner may have trouble, however, running against an outspoken women’s rights advocate in the Sandra Fluke era.

Just hours after Turner’s announcement, Gillibrand spokesman Glen Caplin released a statement welcoming the “former Rush Limbaugh producer” to the race.

“We welcome Congressman Turner to the race,” Caplin said. “We look forward to contrasting Senator Gillibrand’s record of fighting for New York’s middle class with that of Congressman Turner’s record as a former Rush Limbaugh producer turned self-proclaimed ‘pandering’ Republican if he becomes the nominee.”

“As a member of Congress, his record of voting with House Republicans to help protect tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, raise Medicare premiums for seniors, and block efforts to put middle class families back to work is far too extreme for New York.”

Turner has bragged in the past that he was responsible for Rush Limbaugh’s failed attempt to move from radio to television in the 1990s.

Wendy Long, one of Turner’s rivals for the Republican nomination, also made a subtle reference to the Republican Party’s gender gap by telling the New York Daily News through a spokesman that “We welcome Bob to the race and look forward to seeing him and the rest of the guys in Rochester.”

Gender politics are not the only obstacle facing Turner. Gillibrand’s approval ratings have been rising over the past few weeks, and she has a significant financial advantage over Turner. According to the Daily News, Gillibrand has $8.1 million of cash on hand, while Turner has just $72,600 — and is carrying $65,500 in debt.

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