Rick Bennett looks like he’s all in for U.S. Senate race

AUGUSTA, Maine — Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rick Bennett stopped by the State House press corps on Thursday to introduce — or in some cases reintroduce — himself to members of the media.

Bennett said he’s buoyed by the enthusiasm he has seen for his candidacy and predicted that he will have no trouble submitting the necessary 2,000 signatures needed to get on the ballot.

The western Maine native may be relatively unknown to many Mainers because he’s been in the private sector for the last decade, but Bennett has plenty of political experience.

He served for many years in the Legislature and was Maine Senate president for one term. He also won the GOP primary in 1994 for the U.S. House seat in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, although he eventually lost to the Democratic nominee, John Baldacci.

Baldacci, coincidentally, is considering running for the U.S. Senate seat.

Although he’s been away from the State House for awhile, Bennett is still active in the state GOP and is the current National Republican Committeeman.

Many in the GOP establishment view him as the strongest candidate to keep Olympia Snowe’s seat in the Republicans’ corner. Bennett is smart, politically savvy and has been out of the public sphere long enough to bring fresh ideas.

Bennett appeared Thursday like a man who is all in for the Senate race, but he could face a tough primary fight among several others Republicans hopefuls, including: Secretary of State Charlie Summers, Attorney General William Schneider, Treasurer Bruce Poliquin, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Debra Plowman and Scott D’Amboise.

The field of GOP candidates will not be set until after the March 15 filing deadline.