PORTLAND — When this week started, Peter Chandler, chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, figured he had a pretty good idea how the next five days would go.

But by Friday, his boss had taken out nomination papers to run for the Senate, then decided to stick with his re-election campaign, and Chandler himself was taking out papers to run for the House.

“The week did not end the way I thought it would,” said Chandler, who lives in Portland and will run for Maine’s 1st District seat if U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, runs for the Senate, as expected. Michaud represents the 2nd District.

It was that kind of week for many people in Maine politics, starting Tuesday evening, when Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe said she was tired of the partisan fighting in Washington and wouldn’t seek a fourth term.

The result was a statewide political reshuffling in which more than 30 men and women took out papers to run for two House seats and one Senate seat. For many, the next move will be dictated by what Pingree does.

Pingree has taken out nomination papers for the Senate race and indicated that she very likely will run. She said Friday that she will decide this weekend whether to abandon her re-election effort and launch a Senate campaign.

Former Gov. John Baldacci was the only other prominent Democrat who was circulating nomination papers for the Senate seat as of Friday.

One candidate was watching two Pingrees. Ethan Strimling, a former state senator who ran for mayor in Portland last year, said Friday night that he is considering a run for the 1st District House seat, although he has not taken out papers.

He said he would defer to Hannah Pingree — the congresswoman’s daughter and a former speaker of the Maine House — if she decides to run for the seat now held by her mother.

“I think she’s very seriously thinking about it,” Chellie Pingree said of her daughter Friday during a news conference outside her office on Portland’s waterfront.

Pingree said people across the country have urged her to go for Snowe’s seat, but she’s weighing all of her options. She said she’s not being pressured one way or the other by Maine’s Democratic Party leaders. “There’s no big boss who cracks the whip in a situation like this,” Pingree said.

She said she enjoys her current position, but she’s confident that she could win Snowe’s seat. She said she has been through tough, statewide campaigns and she’s familiar with the breadth of Maine’s communities and issues.

Pingree’s husband, S. Donald Sussman, is a financier, philanthropist and frequent Democratic donor who recently purchased a 5 percent equity stake in MaineToday Media through Maine Values LLC.

MaineToday Media owns and operates The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal in Augusta, the Morning Sentinel in Waterville and other media outlets in Maine.

After a couple of days of inactivity, the Republican field of Senate candidates grew markedly Friday. Three of the state’s constitutional officers, Attorney General William Schneider, Treasurer Bruce Poliquin and Secretary of State Charlie Summers, took out nomination papers, as did former state Senate President Rick Bennett and a half-dozen less well-known Republicans.

Before Snowe’s announcement, Scott D’Amboise of Lisbon Falls, a tea party-backed candidate, was the only Republican challenger in the June 12 primary.

Analysts began assessing the Senate race even as the candidates and their supporters started collecting the 2,000 signatures they will need by March 15 to get on the primary ballot.

Douglas Hodgkin, a retired political science professor from Bates College and now a member of the Lewiston Republican City Committee, said he thinks Poliquin is too controversial to win the nomination.

Poliquin has been accused of violating state ethics laws by not fully disclosing business income. And on Thursday, the Maine House voted unanimously to ask the state’s supreme court to answer questions about whether he has violated the Maine Constitution by running his businesses while serving as treasurer.

Hodgkin also noted that Poliquin did poorly in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary, getting just 5 percent of the vote and finishing sixth in a seven-way race.

Hodgkin said Schneider would be an excellent candidate, who would benefit from not having an extensive voting record for opponents to pick apart. He said Schneider would probably be more appealing to the party’s conservative base than Summers, who was state director for Snowe from 1995 to 2004.

Some Republicans have given Snowe the RINO label, meaning “Republican in Name Only.”

The possibility of Eliot Cutler or former Gov. Angus King — both independents — appearing on November’s ballot changes the dynamics of the race, said Peter Mills, a moderate Republican who has lost two bids for the GOP nomination for governor.

“The challenge for either party is the same,” Mills said. “It’s not who can beat the other. It’s who can win in a three-way, and possibly four-way, race.”

He said the conservative wing of the Republican Party is powerful, but not very big. Still, with one or two independents likely to take votes from the Democratic nominee, a conservative candidate could win the Senate race, just as Paul LePage, a tea party favorite, won Maine’s 2010 gubernatorial election.

In that race, Cutler got more votes than the Democratic nominee, Libby Mitchell.

Ronald Schmidt Jr., chairman of the political science department at the University of Southern Maine, agreed with Mills’ assessment.

“The conventional wisdom is that, once the primary is over, the nominee would need to move to the center for independent voters,” he said. “Gov. LePage’s victory suggests another strategy: to make sure you do a very good job of mobilizing your base.”

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard contributed to this report. 

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected] 

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:

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