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Atlanta's worst-kept secret

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Ex-Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young is expected to announce his candidacy for the 2004 U.S. Senate race in the first or second week of October, according to sources close to the peripatetic former ambassador. Lee Echols, Young's spokesman, says there's no confirmed date for Young to make an announcement one way or another, but he put the timetable at a month or six weeks.

Young insiders say he was waiting on the results of a poll from the firm headed by Clinton pollster Stan Greenberg, and when those results came in, they were favorable for a run.

Republicans are looking at a bloody primary battle between Al Bartell, businessman Herman Cain and U.S. Reps. Mac Collins and Johnny Isakson. Isakson remains the frontrunner on paper, but the rap against him has always been that he's too much of a moderate to survive a Republican primary.

All the other possible Democratic Senate candidates have resigned themselves to waiting for Young's inevitable announcement. Both Michelle Nunn and Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond maintain that they'll sit out any race with Young in it, although state Sen. Mary Squires, D-Norcross, has said she still intends to run.

While no one was ready to go on the record to say Young will definitely run, Atlanta City Councilman H. Lamar Willis has some interesting anecdotal evidence to suggest Young is preparing himself for a grueling race. The two work out at the same gym, but in the past, the 71-year-old Young usually just swam. Recently, however, he's been working with a personal trainer -- pumping iron.

"He's very energized these days," Echols says. "He's lost weight and still maintains a schedule that puts most people 30 years younger than him to shame."

For now, that's as close as anyone gets to confirmation of the non-secret.

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