WASHINGTON — Republican Patrick Calder, a merchant mariner from Portland and a self-proclaimed “long shot,” will challenge Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree in Maine’s 1st Congressional District.

Calder said in a phone interview Monday that his election campaign will focus on “the difference between the political elite in this country and the people of Maine. I don’t think people in Maine are getting their money’s worth from Chellie Pingree.”

Calder, 29, has been considering a run against Pingree for months. So far, he is the only Republican challenger to Pingree, who is seeking her third term in the U.S. House.

Earlier this month, Maine Senate Majority Leader Jon Courtney, a Republican from Springvale, said he is unlikely to challenge Pingree.

Courtney was the candidate many Republicans and analysts thought was best positioned to be a credible challenger in November’s election.

When Courtney said he was unlikely to run, Calder said, “I knew I would be an incredible long shot. But it is important that people be given an alternative” to Pingree.

Kate Simmons, Pingree’s campaign manager, said via email, “Chellie never takes an election for granted and will work hard to win re-election this year. But right now, she is focused on her work in Congress.”

National analysts don’t list the race as competitive.

“Republicans are going to be spending most of their time this year defending the seats they gained in 2010,” said Nathan Gonzales, deputy editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report in Washington. “Calder had better hope Mitt Romney is the GOP (presidential) nominee or else he goes from long shot to no shot.”

 

MaineToday Media Washington Bureau Chief Jonathan Riskind can be contacted at 791-6280 or at: jriskind@mainetoday.com