PORTLAND – State Rep. Jon Hinck, D-Portland, won a straw poll taken after a U.S. Senate candidate forum hosted Sunday evening by the Maine League of Young Voters.

Hinck topped three other Democrats — state Sen. Cynthia Dill, former Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap and building contractor Ben Pollard — who are running for the seat now held by Republican Olympia Snowe, who isn’t seeking re-election.

The league invited the six Republican candidates in the June 12 primary, but they either declined or didn’t respond, said Nicola Wells, state director of the league. Former Gov. Angus King, who is running as an independent, wasn’t invited because he’s not facing a challenger in the primary.

“We are disappointed that no Republicans came,” Wells said. “We really wanted to expose our membership to the diversity of viewpoints on both sides of the aisle. We are very much committed to being a nonpartisan group.”

League members solicited ballots from 34 people who attended the hour-long forum at the Lucid Stage on Baxter Boulevard. Audience members were asked to rank the candidates in order of preference.

Hinck came in first, followed by Dunlap, Dill and Pollard, respectively.

“Overall, I was pretty impressed with all of them,” said Ben Lake, 27, a regional planner who lives in Portland. “I could see supporting any one of these candidates.”

Lake said Hinck was his first choice in the straw poll because he liked his “reasoned responses,” but he also liked Pollard’s tendency to “resist conformity.”

During the forum, Hinck, 58, said the person elected to replace Snowe, who is wrapping up her third term, will face a “baptism by fire” in the battle to cut budgets, reduce the deficit and reform taxation. He would focus on energy efficiency and move to stop subsidizing nuclear energy to promote market fairness.

A lawyer who grew up in New Jersey and has lived in Maine for 17 years, Hinck said he would push for government reform and transparency, a goal he will “stand by as long as I live.” He said he would represent the views of “ordinary Mainers,” describing King as “electoral comfort food” and warning against sending “mac and cheese” to Washington.

Dunlap, 47, who grew up in Bar Harbor and lives in Old Town, said he would strive to promote job prosperity, lower student debt and ensure health care access for all, which likely will take several bills to accomplish. He said recent efforts calling for voter identification at the polls and ending Election Day registration are “cynical” attempts to control ballot access.

Asked about future U.S. trade agreements, Dunlap said they must call for specific worker and environmental protections from our trading partners, as well as protections for businesses here at home. He said he opposes certain counterterrorism policies adopted by the Obama administration because he believes they are unconstitutional.

Dill, 47, grew up in New York and Rhode Island before moving to Maine 22 years ago. She lives in Cape Elizabeth, is a lawyer and teaches at Southern Maine Community College. Dill said she wants to make college more affordable because it’s a critical step toward economic security, and she has the progressive vision and competence to go “toe-to-toe” with King.

Dill said she would oppose a measure to allow civil unions for gay couples because she believes it would slow the momentum toward full marriage rights. She also supports campaign funding reform, universal health care and the bank bailout, but she thinks banks and insurance companies that contributed to the economic collapse should be held accountable.

Pollard, 39, who grew up in Blue Hill and lives in Portland, said he would work for world peace and ecological sustainability. He also described himself as a “federalist” whose views sometimes align with Republicans, including health care reform, which he believes should retain private insurance for people who can afford it and shouldn’t require religious employers to provide coverage for contraception.

Pollard said he would work to create jobs by encouraging government investment in infrastructure, such as highways, railroads and Internet access, and in energy-efficient home renovations. He also would vote to end tax cuts for the wealthy, would streamline regulation for American businesses, and would repeal No Child Left Behind because it stifles creative instruction.

The Republican candidates are former state Sen. Rick Bennett, businessman Scott D’Amboise, state Sen. Debra Plowman, state Treasurer Bruce Poliquin, Attorney General William Schneider and Secretary of State Charlie Summers.

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

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