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Pack of Politicians Mull Run for Snowe’s Seat

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Rep. Chellie Pingree is only one of many Maine politicians considering a bid for the Senate seat that Olympia Snowe will vacate at the end of this Congress.

The Maine political world was still reeling Wednesday, 24 hours after Sen. Olympia Snowe's retirement announcement, as politicians up and down the ballot mulled their political future.

The open Senate seat sets up the very real possibility that two House Members, Democratic Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree, will run against each other in their party's June 12 primary. And that scenario creates the possibility that the state will also have two open House seats.

Pingree told Roll Call that she would spend time with her family deciding on a run and make a decision over the weekend. A source in Michaud's campaign said that a decision should come in the next few days.

Pingree also indicated she is making her decision independently from Michaud's deliberations.

"I would hate to have either of us in the position where we lose our Congressional seat back at home, and I know he's weighing that heavily as am I," Pingree said.

"The truth is, I was in a six-way Democratic primary before I got to this Congressional seat," she added. "I've run against good friends and foes, and that's just part of what happens in politics, but it's a decision that both of us have to make individually."

The first step in running for office in Maine is "taking out papers," which means obtaining petitions from the secretary of state's office in order to gather the necessary qualifying signatures. Senate candidates must gather 2,000 signatures by the March 15 filing deadline.

Pingree and Michaud have taken that step, but sources in their campaigns said the looming deadline meant that each had to move ahead with their organizations even though neither has made a definitive decision.

Former Gov. John Baldacci (D), also a former House Member, is collecting signatures to run as well, according to the Maine secretary of state's office. He will be a formidable contender if he ultimately enters the race.

Liberals leaped at the Snowe retirement news. Just hours after the story broke, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee sent emails for a "Draft Pingree" drive. MoveOn.org jumped out front in supporting Pingree as well.

A source close to Pingree described the liberal push as "truly organic."

Republicans were caught completely off guard by Snowe's move, which prompted Roll Call to change the rating of the race from Safe Republican to Tossup.

Still, several would-be GOP candidates are eyeing Snowe's seat.

State Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster has been in touch with at least seven individuals seriously considering running for the seat.

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