Snowe’s exit reveals political aspirations for many in Maine

AUGUSTA, Maine — When Olympia Snowe made her decision early last week to forgo a fourth term, heavy hitters from both political parties quickly began positioning themselves for a next move.

The news also prompted many lighter hitters with lofty political aspirations to show their hand.

Democrat Mike Michaud, the 2nd District congressman, briefly considered running for the Senate as did Kevin Raye, Michaud’s GOP opponent in the 2nd District. Both ended up staying put.

Additionally, for that 48-hour cycle when Michaud and Raye were in limbo, a handful of names were floated a possible candidates if either Michaud or Raye or both moved to the Senate race.

Emily Cain, the Democratic House leader from Orono, and Debra Plowman, the assistant Senate leader from Hampden, both said they were interested in the 2nd District. Bangor City Council Chairman Cary Weston, a Republican, also said he planned to run if Raye was not in the race.

Cain and Weston have both backed out and Plowman is now exploring a U.S. Senate run.

In the 1st District, most watchers now expect sitting Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree to forgo reelection and run for the Senate instead. That move has triggered movement for many Democrats whose previous experience was limited to the Maine Legislature, or in some cases, not even that.

Shenna Bellows, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, said over the weekend that she was gathering signatures. She’s a well-known and well-respected lobbyist in Augusta but may not be that well-known outside the State House. Bellows is also relatively young, so her initial entrance into the fray might be a test balloon.

The same could be said of Sen. Phil Bartlett, D-Gorham, who has served four terms in the Senate, was majority leader in 2009-10 and is eyeing a run in the 1st District.

Sen. Barry Hobbins, a longtime name in Democratic politics and the current Senate minority leader, also is termed out and interested in the 1st District seat. He did run for

Other Democrats include: Rep. Diane Russell of Portland, a two-term House member; Peter Chandler, currently chief of staff for Michaud, state Sen. Cynthia Dill of Cape Elizabeth and Rep. Jon Hinck of Portland, who originally had taken out papers to run for the U.S. Senate; and former state treasurer David Lemoine.

It’s highly likely that many of the candidates would not get enough signatures given the tight  deadline.

Still, would Mainers have known that someone like Chandler or Bellows was interested in higher office if Snowe didn’t shock the political world with her news?

It’s less surprising that Republican Senate hopefuls Charlie Summers and Bruce Poliquin are interested in a seat in Congress, although Attorney General William Schneider took some people by surpise.

-ER