Sunday February 24, 2013 | 03:00 PM

WASHINGTON — Former Treasurer Bruce Poliquin may have inadvertently helped fuel speculation last week about whether he will challenge Sen. Susan Collins in the 2014 Republican primary.

After several weeks of relative quiet, Poliquin has jumped back into the public debate over spending and debt through email blasts and newspaper columns, including a new blog with the Portland Press Herald. But it was a bio in his email blasts that caught the eye of some close observers.

The bio described the Georgetown businessman as "the former Maine State Treasurer and a Republican primary candidate for the United States Senate." The bio was soon changed, however, and the subsequent email clarified that he was a "2012 Republican primary candidate" for Senate.

Poliquin, who also ran for governor in 2010, is from the more conservative side of the Maine Republican Party. And there have been many rumblings about whether Poliquin or another conservative will step up to challenge the more moderate Collins in next year's primary.

A recent poll by Public Policy Polling suggested that Collins would easily win in the general election thanks to her popularity among Republicans, Democrats and independents, but could face a tougher primary fight against a more conservative contender.

In an interview, Poliquin politely declined to answer a question about his future political plans.

"I'm looking forward to 2013 and to continuing to raise important fiscal issues facing our state and facing our country," he said.

AMBASSADOR SNOWE?

There's been lots of speculation in the Canadian press in recent weeks about who will be the next U.S. ambassador to our northern neighbor. And one of the names that keeps popping up is former Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe.

Snowe is often included on the list of rumored candidates, alongside former Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire, former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Detroit Mayor David Bing and Caroline Kennedy. Kennedy, the well-known daughter of President John F. Kennedy, is clearly the media favorite.

The same list has been cited by news organizations across Canada, so it's possible that it is simply being regurgitated by news outlets after making an appearance somewhere else first.

Recently, Snowe spokesman Lucas Caron told me the newly retired senator "hasn't received any calls from the White House." But the answer was in response to whether Snowe had been contacted about – and had any interest in – the Cabinet-level position heading the Small Business Administration. Fellow Mainer Karen Mills is now SBA administrator but plans to step down once her successor is found.

Snowe, meanwhile, was named last week as a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center – a Washington, D.C.-based think tank – where she will co-chair a Commission on Political Reform. Former Maine Sen. George Mitchell, a Democrat, is a co-founder of the center. Snowe is also completing work on a memoir.

MAINE TIES TO OSCAR NOMINEE

One of the contenders in Sunday night's Academy Award ceremonies is a hard-hitting documentary that features U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree.

"The Invisible War" by filmmaker Kirby Dick investigates the military's poor record of investigating and prosecuting sexual assaults and rapes. The film includes testimony from numerous sexual assault survivors as well as interviews with several lawmakers involved in the issue, including Pingree.

Some of the scenes of survivors sharing their stories were also filmed in Pingree's Washington office.

The documentary has focused attention in the Pentagon and in Congress on the issue of sexual assaults in the military. Pingree is co-sponsor of a bill – named for Maine native Ruth Moore – that would help "military sexual trauma" survivors such as Moore qualify for disability benefits.

Pingree is married to S. Donald Sussman, majority shareowner of MaineToday Media, which publishes the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel.

PROTECTING DEFENSE SPENDING

Maine and New Hampshire's congressional delegations – like many across the country – were making moves last week to protect their home defense-related interests from looming budget cuts and future, difficult decisions on spending.

Some key committee posts could help in those efforts when it comes to defense issues.

Sen. Susan Collins serves on the Defense Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is responsible for divvying up the federal budget.

New Hampshire Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, and Kelly Ayotte, a Republican, were recently appointed chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support.

The subcommittee oversees, among other things, Navy fleet maintenance as well as industrial operations at the service's shipyards, such as the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on the Maine-New Hampshire border. As the panel's two top members, Ayotte and Shaheen would also be well positioned to try to scuttle another attempt by the Pentagon to close military bases, because the subcommittee reviews any base closure proposals.

And freshman Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent, serves on the Senate Budget Committee and was named last week to the Senate Armed Services Committee's Seapower Subcommittee, which oversees contract procurement for the Navy.

Over in the House, Maine Rep. Mike Michaud, D-2nd District, recently became the top-ranking Democrat on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, giving him significant input on the committee's work and direction. Maine Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, is beginning her first term on the House Appropriations Committee.

Washington Bureau Chief Kevin Miller can be contacted at (207) 317-6256 or at:

kmiller@mainetoday.com

On Twitter: @KevinMillerDC

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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.
Kevin can be reached at 317-6256 or kmiller@mainetoday.com

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