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Thursday September 08, 2011 | 11:35 AM

Two prominent Democrats are edging closer to a U.S. Senate run in 2012.

State Rep. Jon Hinck of Portland appears to be on the verge of running, and former Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap of Old Town plans to make a decision in the next four to six weeks.

Hinck said in a phone interview today that “it’s looking good,” when asked whether he planned to challenge Snowe, a three-term incumbent who won with 74 percent of the vote in 2006. He added that among those he has spoken to about a potential challenge to Snowe are officials with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in Washington.

Hinck said in July that was considering a U.S. Senate bid. He said this morning that since then he has been talking to potential supporters and contributors and other political contacts around the state.

“I have been doing it fairly methodically, I still have a few people I want to contact,” Hinck said. “This month will certainly be critical,” in reaching a decision whether to run, he added.

Dunlap also said this summer that he was seriously considering a run against Snowe.

Dunlap, who also has been a state lawmaker, has been interim executive director of the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine. The alliance has hired a permanent director and Dunlap is leaving that post on Sept. 30.

He said that because of his obligations in that job, he has been limited to nights and weekends in his Senate race exploration. While he thought after his failed 2010 reelection bid that it might be time to get out of running for elected office, “I still see a lot of things that need to be worked on,” Dunlap said. “I am rapidly approaching the decision point.”

Snowe is being challenged in the GOP primary by two Tea Party affiliated candidates, Scott D’Amboise of Lisbon Falls, a health care technician and owner of a commercial cleaning business, and Andrew Ian Dodge of Harpswell, a free-lance writer.

Snowe reported having more than $2.7 million in campaign cash on hand after the second quarter, compared to about $117,000 in D’Amboise’s campaign chest. Dodge told the Federal Election Commission July 30 that he had not yet reached the $5,000 reporting threshold as of the end of the second quarter, but expected to file a campaign report after the third quarter.

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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