Lead­ing Maine Demo­crat passes on Se­nate bid

Pin­gree chooses to de­fend House seat

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY DAVID SHARP

PORT­LAND, MAINE | Demo­cratic Rep. Chel­lie Pin­gree said Wed­nes­day that she de­cided against run­ning for the Se­nate seat be­ing va­cated by Re­pub­li­can Olympia J. Snowe, choos­ing in­stead to de­fend her House seat.

Ms. Pin­gree, who rep­re­sents Maine’s south­ern coastal dis­trict and was con­sid­ered one of her party’s top hopes of cap­tur­ing the seat, said it was a dif­fi­cult decision. In the end, she con­cluded that she can best serve Maine by run­ning for re-elec­tion to the House, she said.

“There is much at stake in this elec­tion, and in the end I had to put the best in­ter­ests of the state and the coun­try ahead of my own,” she said in a state­ment.

Left un­said was the fact that if she en­tered the Se­nate race, Ms. Pin­gree would have faced her long­time friend, pop­u­lar for­mer Gov. An­gus King, who an­nounced he’s run­ning as an in­de­pen­dent. Her decision not to run could mean more Demo­cratic sup­port for Mr. King, who if elected would be courted by both par­ties to join their Se­nate cau­cus.

“This is a per­sonal re­lief to me be­cause I wasn’t look­ing for­ward to run­ning against a friend,” Mr. King said in a state­ment.

Ms. Snowe, a mod­er­ate Re­pub­li­can, an­nounced last week that she wouldn’t seek a fourth term, cit­ing frus­tra­tions over par­ti­san pol­i­tics and grid­lock in the Se­nate. Her decision set off a scram­ble by po­ten­tial can­di­dates since Repub­li­cans and Democrats have only un­til March 15 to sub­mit 2,000 sig­na­tures to get on the June pri­mary bal­lot.

Na­tional Repub­li­cans, with­out of­fer­ing spe­cific proof, ac­cused top Democrats in Washington on Wed­nes­day of push­ing aside Ms. Pin­gree, who has strong sup­port from pro­gres­sives, in fa­vor of Mr. King, who is a pop­u­lar fig­ure in the state af­ter serv­ing two terms as gov­er­nor from 1995 to 2003.

Repub­li­cans sus­pect Demo­cratic lead­ers may have won some type of as­sur­ance from Mr. King that he would align him­self with the party.

“The decision by na­tional Democrats to throw Chel­lie Pin­gree and other proud Demo­cratic lead­ers in Maine aside, in fa­vor of an ‘in­de­pen­dent’ who sup­ported Pres­i­dent Bush in 2000, makes clear they are more con­cerned with hold­ing onto power in Washington than try­ing to ad­vance their own party’s prin­ci­ples,” Rob Jes­mer, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Re­pub­li­can Se­na­to­rial Com­mit­tee, said in a state­ment.

The top Se­nate Demo­crat in Washington has de­nied hav­ing any dis­cus­sions with Mr. King.

Harry Reid, the Se­nate Demo­cratic leader, was asked at the Capi­tol if he had spo­ken at all with Mr. King. “No, I’ve never spo­ken to any­one named ‘An­gus,’ “he told re­porters.

One pos­si­ble Demo­cratic can­di­date for Ms. Snowe’s seat is for­mer two-term Gov. John Bal­dacci, who is col­lect­ing sig­na­tures but has yet to make a final decision, said spokesman Dan Cashman. Four other Democrats are al­ready in the race, but some said they’d con­sider step­ping aside if Ms. Pin­gree chose to run.

On the GOP side, pre­vi­ously an­nounced can­di­date Scott D’am­boise now faces the prospect of four or more GOP com­peti­tors, in­clud­ing for­mer state Sen. Rick Ben­nett. They could be joined by ad­di­tional can­di­dates in­clud­ing Maine Sec­re­tary of State Charles E. Sum­mers Jr., At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam J. Sch­nei­der and Trea­surer Bruce L. Poliquin.


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