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Wednesday November 02, 2011 | 01:34 PM

(Updated below with statement from state Rep. Jon Hinck and from Sen. Olympia Snowe's campaign manager)

Former Democratic Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap has made official his candidacy to run against GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, and a second Maine Democrat is expected to formally enter the race soon.

Dunlap has filed a statement of organization with the Federal Election Commission. It was first mailed last week to the Senate Clerk’s Office which logged it in Monday and sent it over to the FEC because Senate candidates don’t file campaign reports electronically.

Dunlap, secretary of state from 2005-2010 and a former state representative from Old Town, had been poised to run for months, and plans to make an official announcement of his candidacy within a few weeks at an event in Maine, according to a source close to Dunlap’s campaign. The Dunlap campaign let it be known today that the filing had been made, but Dunlap has declined comment.

But also about to make it official as a Democratic rival to Snowe is, as also long expected, state Rep. Jon Hinck of Portland. Hinck already had formed an exploratory committee and also is expected to make a formal announcement in the near future.

(Update as of 2:30 p.m. Hinck's exploratory committee put out the following statement, which essentially indicates that Hinck is an all-but-declared candidate:

"We look forward to a potential Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate next year.  Primaries are great for the democratic process and help to energize the electorate.  Taking on an incumbent who has spent 33 years in Washington will be a tough road for any candidate. Olympia Snowe’s campaign is financed by wealthy out-of-staters and special interest groups in Washington like Bank of America, Exxon Mobil, and Goldman Sachs.

Hinck is listening to the concerns of voters and learning what Mainers want to see out of their U.S. Senator.   Overwhelmingly, people are expressing frustration with the entrenched special interests that have a stranglehold on Congress.  People feel like their voices are not being heard and that working families are not a priority in the U.S. Senate. Certainly Matt Dunlap, who is Jon's friend and colleague, would be a better choice than Olympia Snowe, but Jon looks forward to offering Maine new energy and new vision."

Mary Erin Casale, executive director of the Maine Democratic Party, said that a contested primary won’t hurt whichever Democrat emerges to take on Snowe in the general election.

 

“I think they are both excellent candidates,” Casale said. “ I am glad Matt made it official and I am looking forward to Jon’s filing as well. A primary is great for us. Either candidate is going to mount a strong challenge against Sen. Snowe. She’s going to have a big race in front of her. She has been tacking to the right recently, and the people of Maine are ready for a change.”

A message has been left seeking comment from the Snowe campaign.

(Updated as of 3:20 p.m.: Justin Brasell, Snowe’s campaign manager said in a statement that, “Olympia Snowe has been an effective and independent voice for Maine, and she is focused on doing her job to look out for Maine’s interests in Washington.  As always she looks forward to the opportunity in the campaign next year to showcase her many accomplishments on behalf of Maine workers, having led efforts to help protect and grow jobs in our forestry, fishing, farming and ship building industries, among her many other efforts that have served Mainers well.)

The three-term incumbent is being challenged in the GOP primary by two Tea Party affiliated candidates, but a poll this week found that Snowe is well ahead of her primary challengers.

According to the poll released yesterday by Public Policy Polling, Snowe’s  “prospects for winning the Republican nomination for another term as Senator from Maine are looking the best they have in two years, in what could be a sign of Tea Party fever dwindling,” said Public Policy Polling Director Tom Jensen in an analysis of the findings.

PPP says it is a Democratic polling company, but notes that “polling expert Nate Silver of the New York Times found that its surveys in 2010 actually exhibited a slight bias toward Republican candidates.”

In a survey of 250 “usual” Maine GOP primary voters conducted Oct. 28-31 with a 6.2 percent margin of error, Snowe had 62 percent of the GOP primary vote compared to 10 percent for Scott D’Amboise of Lisbon Falls and seven percent for Andrew Ian Dodge of Harpswell.

Snowe had more than $3.2 million in her campaign coffers as of Sept. 30. D'Amboise had about $182,000 and Dodge had not raised enough money to file a campaign report with the FEC.

 

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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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