October 12, 2011

Hinck blasts Snowe on jobs vote

By Jonathan Riskind jriskind@mainetoday.com
Washington Bureau Chief

WASHINGTON — Speaking as a potential Senate candidate who has formed an "exploratory committee," Democrat Jon Hinck today criticized Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe's vote against President Obama's $447 billion jobs plan as a "no" vote that is "bad for jobs, bad for Maine."

Hinck, a state representative from Portland, is one of two Democrats who have been eyeing a run  against Snowe, and today's blast at the Maine Republican also is a declaration that Hinck now is an all but official challenger.

Snowe and fellow Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins joined other Republicans in voting against a procedural motion on the bill, as did two Senate Democrats, resulting in a 51-48 vote that fell far short of the 60 needed to end debate and go to a final floor vote on the jobs package.

Snowe and Collins sounded a similar note in saying that they weren't satisfied with a "take it or leave it" up or down vote on the bill, but both asserted that there are a number of job-creating elements that Obama and Democrats back that they, too, could support.

"Job creation is indisputably our nation's number one priority, and there are elements of the president's package that Republicans and Democrats should be able to agree upon," Snowe said in a statement after the vote. "Unfortunately, yet again the Senate was faced with a take it or leave it package to which no amendments would be allowed on this bill with massive and wide-ranging implications."

Maine Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant slammed the votes by both Snowe and Collins, saying the Maine Republicans "toed the party line in an effort to appeal to the radical tea party base and wealthy campaign contributors."

But Hinck singled out Snowe – Collins is not up for reelection until 2014 – on a letterhead that carries a logo stating: "Making change happen for Maine Jon Hinck U.S. Senate Exploratory Committee."

Forming an exploratory committee allows Hinck to begin raising money and contacting donors as a potential candidate until he crosses a $5,000 fundraising threshold, when he would have a brief window within which to file as a formal candidate.

Former Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap of Old Town also is considering running, setting up a potential Democratic primary next year. Snowe has two announced tea party movement-affiliated, GOP primary challengers, Scott D'Amboise of Lisbon Falls and Andrew Ian Dodge of Harpswell, but is far outpacing both in terms of campaign cash.

The latest campaign finance report Snowe is filing later this week with the Federal Election Commission shows she had more than $3.2 million on hand as of Sept. 30, after raising more than $792,000 during the third quarter.

Hinck is "getting close" to announcing as a formal candidate against Snowe, but currently still is "exploring the race and that involves making sure we can raise the kind of money it will take to take on Sen. Snowe," said Sean Flaherty, a Hinck exploratory committee aide. But Hinck "couldn't sit back and ignore the opportunity to question Snowe's vote on this last bill. This issue is too big to ignore."

In his statement, Hinck endorses Obama's jobs bill, which included an extension of the Social Security payroll tax reduction in place this year and several other tax breaks such as one aimed at getting businesses to hire workers, financed in large part with a tax surcharge on people with incomes of $1 million and above. Obama's initial proposal included limiting tax deductions on households earning more than $250,000, which Senate Democrats replaced with the tax on millionaires.

The Obama jobs package also attempts to stimulate the economy by spending more money on infrastructure projects and on hiring more teachers and first responders.

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