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Sandra Fluke, the women's rights activist weighing a congressional bid, said Wednesday she will instead mount a campaign for the California Legislature.

Fluke's surprise candidacy for the state's 26th Senate district comes amid persistent calls for more women to challenge for the Legislature. In a statement, the Democrat said she was moved by the outpouring of local and national support since announcing she was considering running for public office.

"My entire career has been devoted to the public interest, whether representing victims of human trafficking or advocating for working families," Fluke said Wednesday. "I am committed to continuing that fight in Sacramento, working to protect our environment, ensure our access to health care, and create the jobs that are desperately needed. While I strongly considered offering my candidacy for Congress, I feel there is better way for me to advance the causes that are important to our community."

The 26th Senate District, stretching along the coast of Los Angeles County -- from the Westside to south of Torrance -- came open when Democratic Sen. Ted Lieu decided to forgo a final term in favor of getting in the race to succeed veteran Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman.

26th Senate District

Other potential candidates for the state Senate seat include Democrats Vito Imbasciani, an Army National Guard State Surgeon, former Assemblywoman Betsy Butler and Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi.

Fluke this week sought to remain eligible for the California Democratic Party endorsement had she run for Congress. It's unclear whether she qualified for the party's backing in the state Senate race, though her announcement includes endorsements from Democratic Rep. Janice Hahn and state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara.

Fluke is no stranger to the campaign trail having appeared with everyone from President Barack Obama to a handful of California Democrats running for targeted congressional seats.

As a Georgetown University law student, Fluke became a household name after her congressional testimony advocating for birth control coverage inspired a viral rant by conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh. He later apologized for deriding her as a "slut" and "prostitute."

Last month, Fluke was flanked by several state lawmakers as she spoke to a women's policy summit in Sacramento.

PHOTO: Activist Sandra Fluke campaigns for Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, then a candidate for Congress. The news conference on women's health issues was held in October 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling


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