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Maine Mystery: Snowe Tea Party Rival?

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There is a budding mystery along the northern border, where a local tea party leader insists a credible challenger has emerged to attack Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe from the right.

Just don’t ask who it is.

The Maine state coordinator for the national Tea Party Patriots, Andrew Ian Dodge, tells Roll Call of “extensive” conversations with a candidate who promises to formally announce his Republican primary candidacy against Snowe in the first three months of 2011. And while he offered several hints, Dodge stopped short of naming the person who is supposed to knock off Maine’s most powerful politician in 2012.

“There is someone that’s going to come out. But he’s not going to be forced out by the press,” Dodge said. “Of course Snowe’s people want to know who it is, so they can take their machine and aim it at him and trash him. ... It’s a giant chess game.”

And while such ambiguous pronouncements two years before Election Day from a local activist might have produced chuckles in the past, the 2010 cycle proved that moderates such as Snowe are vulnerable to GOP primary challenges from little-known conservatives, even in less-than-conservative states. Just ask Delaware Rep. Mike Castle.

“Nobody’s going to get a pass,” Randy Lewis, a spokesman for the national Tea Party Patriots, said when asked Monday about Snowe in 2012. “Everybody on Capitol Hill right now is on a form of tea party probation.”

Dodge, a freelance writer, said the unnamed Maine Senate candidate, a man, has never run for elected office but enjoys strong name recognition. Further, the mystery man is from the southern part of the state (“Augusta south,” Dodge explained for those who understand Maine’s complicated geography) and has the financial resources to become an instant contender.

“Starting with nothing and building up against Snowe would be silly,” Dodge said. “It’s going to take a lot of money and lots of logistics to do it. It’s a bit like the English civil war, where you have a group of people trying to overthrow the king. It’s a bit like that in Maine. She runs the Republican Party. It’s going to be bloody and messy and not very polite.”

Snowe, a three-term Senator and the wife of a former governor, declined to be interviewed. Her office scoffed at Dodge’s claim as a rumor and refused to comment.

Could Dodge be the mystery contender? He is, after all, one of the most oft-quoted tea partyers in Maine. 

When asked, he wouldn’t rule it out, but such a move would be somewhat strange, especially given that Dodge said he had extensive conversations with the candidate, most recently before Thanksgiving.

His formal answer, however, left the door open just a crack: “I have never run for political office, and I have no immediate plans to do so.”

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