MANZANITA - A businessman who's never run for public office before said Wednesday he will challenge U.S. Rep. Darlene Hooley in the May Democratic primary election.

Andrew Kaza said Hooley, with her support for President Bush's $87 billion Iraq package, doesn't deserve a free ride to the Democratic nomination in the 5th District race.

"That's a decision that a lot of Democrats take issue with," Kaza said at a news conference.

Hooley, a four-term incumbent, has said she intends to seek a fifth term and listed nearly $700,000 in cash on hand in her most recent campaign finance filing. She has not faced a Democratic primary since 1996.

Kaza, 44, returned to Oregon last year to live in Manzanita. After earning a bachelor of arts degree in 1985 at University of Portland, he spent nearly 20 years in the media and entertainment business. He worked for Comcast as the cable communications company expanded into Europe in the 1990s. He later worked as an executive with BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the British Broadcasting Corp.

He believes he will be able to raise enough money to challenge Hooley. "This is going to be a competitive campaign," Kaza said, declining to say how much money he hopes to raise.

Kaza said he's changed his party registration several times over the years, although he's been a Democrat most of the time. He switched from the Pacific Green Party to Democrat last summer, he said.

"This is a state that puts people and principles ahead of party affiliation," he said.

Hooley's campaign pollster, Lisa Grove, said the congresswoman "has strong standing" among 5th District Democrats.

While Hooley backed Bush's $87 billion Iraq package, she voted against the resolution authorizing the Iraq war, Grove said. Further, Hooley opposed Bush's latest tax cut as well as his Medicare plan, she said.

As for Kaza's candidacy, Grove said the challenger is "a guy who has spent very little time in the district; very little time in the state; and very little time as a Democrat."

Three Republicans are running for the seat - Salem charter airline executive Brian Boquist, Portland lawyer Jim Zupancic and state Sen. Jackie Winters of Salem.

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