Senator Byron Dorgan’s decision to forego a 2010 reelection bid has sent Democrats in North Dakota — and Washington — searching for a candidate who can hold a blue seat in a red state.

And there is some interest in a potential contender who would bring a lot of star power to the race.

MSNBC host Ed Schultz, who worked his way onto the national stage from a place on the radio dial in Fargo, took calls Wednesday from Dorgan and top North Dakota Democrats who opened up a discussion about the prospect of a “Schultz for Senate” run.

Schultz was intrigued yet reasonably resistant to the idea.

When we spoke in the afternoon, he was taking plenty of shots at the likely Republican Senate nominee, North Dakota Governor John Hoeven.

On his cable show Wednesday evening, however, the host sounded disinclined to leap onto the race.

“I’m in a different place than politics right now. We’re a long way from any consideration,” Schultz said in a special comment on MSNBC’s The ED Show. “And we’re a long way from any kind of decision.”

Noting that he had “invested a lot of time and a lot of years” in developing a popular syndicated radio show and, since April, his MSNBC program, Schultz said of the Senate race: “At this point, I’m not even considering.”

The fact is that Schultz, a quick-witted progressive populist who knows the issues and would be more than willing to go after Hoeven, has the makings of an appealing contender — despite the fact that he would have to establish himself as a “current resident” of the state where he made his name covering North Dakota State University sports teams.

Schultz would be a credible candidate and he could, undoubtedly, raise sufficient campaign funding to give Hoeven a run for his money.

He also has a compelling story. After all, another celebrity candidate started in radio, made a national name on TV and then got into politics, His name was Ronald Reagan.

But Schultz is not the only potential contender with appeal.

Two women are especially interesting prospects: former Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp, who was the Democratic-Non-Partisan League candidate for governor in 2000, and former Commissioner of Agriculture Sarah Vogel, who has been a great player on farm, food and trade issues for a quarter century.

Another potential contender with real appeal is State Senator April Fairfield, a former North Dakota Farmers Union staffer who has a record of winning a progressive Democrat is rural districts that tend to vote Republican in presidential elections. That’s a skill that should count for something with smart North Dakota and national Democrats in the turbulent year of 2010.