March 2, 2012

Maine Democrats in 'holding pattern'

PORTLAND — Maine Democrats are in a "holding pattern" as far as new candidates for either the U.S. House or U.S. Senate races, the party's chairman said.

Ben Grant said many of the party's politicians are now waiting to see if Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, who represents the state's 1st District, will run for the Senate. Pingree has taken out nominating papers for the seat, but said she won't decide whether to run until the weekend.

One Democrat, however, did take steps to move into the crowded field for the 1st District House seat: Peter Chandler, who is chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud, D-Maine.

Michaud represents Maine's 2nd District — which covers the central and northern parts of the state — but Chandler lives in Portland, which is in the 1st District.

Candidates have been dropping in and out over the last three days after incumbent Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, announced she wouldn't seek a fourth term due to her frustration with increasing partisanship in Congress.

Pingree's husband, S. Donald Sussman, is a financier and philanthropist who recently purchased a 5 percent equity stake in MaineToday Media, which owns The Portland Press Herald, the Kennebec Journal in Augusta and the Morning Sentinel in Waterville.

Earlier this week, Pingree and former Democratic Gov. John E. Baldacci took out nominating papers for the Senate seat. Michaud also took out papers, but said late Thursday that he would instead seek to hold onto his 2nd District House seat.

On Friday, Grant knocked down a report that Pingree was being encouraged to stay in the House by party leaders who suggest she could be up for a leadership post.

Grant said both parties are putting a lot of effort into taking control of the Senate in this year's election and that "trumps" any possible party-leadership post.

On Friday, four big-name Maine Republicans announced their candidacies for the Senate seat. State Senate President Kevin Raye was also reportedly considering a run, but instead said he will continue to challenge Michaud in the House race.

Two Democrats who took out papers to run in the 2nd District dropped out after Michaud made his announcement.

As of midday Friday, five Democrats — state Sen. Cynthia Dill, D-Cape Elizabeth; lawyer Wellington Lyons; hotel concierge David Costa; former state treasurer David Lemoine; and state Rep. Jon Hinck, D-Portland — have taken out papers for the 1st District House race.

Four Republicans – state Senate majority leader Jon Courtney, R-Springvale, former secretary of state Markham Gartley, engineer Patrick Calder and John Vedral of Buxton – have taken out nominating papers for the 1st District House seat.

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