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Brazil Congressman Costa Selected as Serra's Running Mate for October Vote

Brazil congressman Indio da Costa of the opposition Democrats party was named presidential candidate Jose Serra’a running mate as he seeks to regain the lead in polls ahead of October’s election.

The Democrats, in a convention to announce their support for Serra, approved Costa’s nomination by unanimous vote.

“He’s a young man, but experienced,” Serra said in a speech to the convention. “We are two different generations together.”

Costa, 39, has a law degree from Rio de Janeiro’s Candido Mendes University. He began his political career in 1997 as a city councilman in Rio, where he focused on legislation to promote tourism and improve the quality of life by requiring citizens to clean up after their dogs on sidewalks, according to his website.

“He’s a young face, but an experienced politician,” Antonio Carlos Magalhaes Neto, vice president of the Democrats, told reporters in Brasilia. “He will have a lot to add to the ticket.”

The Democrats are the second biggest opposition force in Congress and Serra’s main coalition partner as he competes against former Cabinet Chief Dilma Rousseff, who is running on President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s Workers’ Party ticket.

In 2006, Costa was elected to congress from his home state. He’s the sponsor of the so-called “clean record” law passed this year that bans some convicted criminals from seeking elected office.

Rousseff’s Lead

“I’m very proud to be given the chance to work alongside one of Brazil’s most qualified men,” Costa told the convention of 350 party members today.

Rousseff overtook Serra for the first time in an Ibope poll published June 23 on behalf of the National Industrial Confederation. Rousseff, who has never run for elected office before, had the support of 40 percent of those surveyed, compared with 35 percent for Serra and 9 percent for Marina Silva, Lula´s former environment minister. An additional 10 percent were undecided.

The nationwide survey of 2,002 people has a margin of error of 2 percentage points.

The Democrats settled on Costa after resisting attempts by Serra’s Brazilian Social Democracy Party, or PSDB, to select Senator Alvaro Dias as the candidate’s running mate.

Serra, 68, is the former governor of Sao Paulo, Brazil’s wealthiest and most populous state. His party is the country’s biggest opposition group. It last held the presidency from 1995 through 2002, under Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

Election History

Serra lost a presidential runoff in October 2002, taking 39 percent of the vote to Lula’s 61 percent.

Serra, who was exiled in Chile and the U.S. during part of Brazil´s 1964 to 1985 military dictatorship, has been critical of Lula´s handling of Latin America´s biggest economy as growth accelerated in the first quarter to 9 percent, the fastest in two decades.

Among his targets is Brazil´s central bank, which he says waited too long to cut interest rates following the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in September 2008. In May, he said he was “worried” about high interest rates and that the central bank shouldn´t be treated like the “Vatican.”

In an interview last night with TV Globo, Serra said he would maintain the bank’s current operational autonomy if elected.

“The bank will stay just like it is now,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Maria Luiza Rabello in Brasilia at mrabello@bloomberg.net

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