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Fresh off his fall win, U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky has filed paperwork to possibly run again for the seat he's held for nearly three decades.

The Merrillville Democrat this week filed candidacy papers for the 2012 race with the Federal Election Commission, a requirement to raise money in a federal campaign.

Campaign spokesman David St. John described the move more as a formality, saying Visclosky is focused on the 14th term he just won.

"Having been re-elected recently by the residents of Northwest Indiana, the congressman is focused on addressing their interests," and not on another campaign, St. John said.

At least one local elections expert expressed doubt Visclosky will seek his seat again, or win it as easily as in previous years.

"Visclosky's going to be a little more vulnerable than in the past," said Maurice Eisenstein, a Purdue University Calumet political science professor.

St. John said the next election is "just so far down the road right now, and there's work to do. He's going to do the job he's been elected to do."

Should Visclosky run, Eisenstein said, he faces multiple challenges, including overcoming a reputation of questionable ethics.

The U.S. Department of Justice had been investigating Visclosky's ties to the PMA Group, a once-powerful lobbying firm whose owner was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison this month for making illegal donations to lawmakers.

The furor over the allegations ignited a House ethics committee investigation of Visclosky and other key PMA donation recipients. Visclosky has not been accused of, or charged with, any wrongdoing.

Eisenstein also said an expected change in the state's political districts likely could damage the kind of strong Democratic support Visclosky typically gets from region voters.

"Republicans can finally, really beat Visclosky," Eisenstein said. "Although less likely, a strong Democrat can beat Visclosky."

Eisenstein has cited Visclosky's votes against the Democrat-backed DREAM Act and middle-class tax cuts as proof the congressman is aware of the redistricting threat.

Eisenstein also said although Visclosky has struggled in recent years raising money, his healthy campaign fund is a key strength. Over the years, Visclosky has far out-earned any challenger from either side of the aisle.

In the heat of the last election season, between Oct. 14 and Nov. 22, Visclosky collected about $25,340 and spent about $185,000, according to FEC reports.

During that time, he also spent $18,282 on legal fees tied to the PMA case, for himself and staff.

He had a little more than $565,000 near the end of November. His year-end totals were not available Friday.

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