Rep. Josh Shapiro of Montgomery County, considered a rising star in state Democratic circles, tells Commonwealth Confidential that he is close to an announcement about whether he will vie for the U.S. Senate seat held by Sen. Arlen Specter since 1980.

"I expect to make an announcement very soon about how best to move forward," Shapiro said in a recent interview.

Shapiro, the former deputy House Speaker and a reform movement leader, met with members of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee in Washington earlier this month and says he is "very humbled by the expressions of support."

We learned on Thursday that "the Housewife from Johnstown," Peg Luksik, formally announced she will challenge Specter for the Republican nomination in 2010. The 79-year-old Specter says he will run for a sixth term.

Luksik, 52, ran for governor three times in the 1990s on an anti-abortion platform. (Don't try Googling Luksik yet to find her 2010 campaign information; the first entry that comes up is a Website for her candidacy in 1998 governor's race.)

The news is not going over too well in conservative circles where leaders on the Republican's right flank are concerned Luksik could siphon votes away from Pat Toomey who nearly toppled Specter in the 2004 Senate primary.

Luksik, who says she is unfazed by the possible Toomey entry, told reporters that Americans are tired of "the arrogance of Washington's elitists." She made her announcement while seated at a kitchen table in Johnstown.

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