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RPT-Five facts about Connecticut's Richard Blumenthal

Jan 6 (Reuters) - Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, an activist who has taken on credit card lenders and drug companies, has quickly emerged as front-runner in the state’s U.S. Senate race.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, dogged by low approval ratings, announced on Wednesday that he would not seek re-election in November.

Blumenthal has announced his intention to run, and given his high profile and out-sized popularity in Connecticut, will be favored to keep the seat in Democratic hands.

Here are five facts about Blumenthal:

-- Blumenthal, 63, was elected as the state’s top law enforcer in 1990 and has served five terms in that office. He previously served in the state’s House and Senate. Blumenthal briefly worked as a reporter on the Metro desk at the Washington Post before gravitating to public service.

-- As of November the Harvard College and Yale Law School graduate enjoyed a lopsided approval rating of 78 percent, according to a poll by Quinnipiac University. He passed on a run for the governorship being vacated by Republican Jodi Rell, who said in November she would not seek re-election 2010.

-- Blumenthal is often in the news, and in front of the television camera, as probably the nation’s highest-profile Attorney General. His office has cast a wide net of legal initiatives that has drawn criticism for grandstanding but built an image of aggressive law enforcement.

In the past few months, Blumenthal has threatened legal action against Wall Street credit rating agencies for “negligent” ratings that he alleges led to large losses at the state’s pension funds, announced a probe into price gouging by makers of seasonal flu vaccines, and sued the drugstore chain CVS Caremark Corp for selling outdated over-the-counter medications.

This week, Blumenthal wrote to Ben Bernanke, asking the Federal Reserve chairman to roll back fee increases imposed on credit card customers over recent months.

-- Blumenthal in 2008 joined California, Illinois and Florida in suing subprime lender Countrywide Financial Corp, once the largest U.S. home lender that was acquired by Bank of America, for fraudulent business practices. Dodd’s association with Countrywide, which provided a low-interest mortgage loan to the lawmaker, was the subject of a Senate ethics investigation, and Republicans in Connecticut pressured Blumenthal to act.

-- Blumenthal’s likely Republican competition for the Senate seat include former U.S. Representative Robert Simmons, Linda McMahon, former chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment, and economist Peter Schiff, president of Euro Pacific Capital.

A survey by the nonpartisan Public Policy Polling group, conducted before Dodd’s announcement, showed Blumenthal with leads of 30 points or greater against all three potential opponents. Dodd’s seat “went from one of the most vulnerable to one of the safest for Senate Democrats,” said the group’s director Tom Jensen.

Reporting by Ros Krasny in Boston, editing by Vicki Allen