With Michaud decision, Maine races clarify — a bit (w/updates)

With the decision of Representative Michaud to not enter the Senate race, the chaos of the last few days has calmed — a bit.

Now it looks like the Democratic Senate nomination contest will certainly include Representative Pingree, with the possible entry of former Governor Baldacci and the potential for former Secretary of State Matt Dunlap to continue as a candidate.  In my estimation, Pingree would be the favorite in such a race, although without polling data, that’s hard to say.

How strong a candidate is Pingree?

In 2010, a year when the Republicans had a major national surge and a wave of victories in Maine, she won 57% of the vote. Needless to say, that is a fine showing.

The 2010 campaign was basically run on policy differences. However, at one point, Republicans thought it was a big scandal that she used the plane owned by the man to whom she was going to marry — and since has married. They claimed it was hypocritical because she had criticized politicians taking corporate jets. The argument made no sense because Pingree’s criticism was aimed at politicians who received favors from industries they oversaw, while she was getting a ride from her betrothed. (Perhaps some time Bangor Daily News columnist and blogger Matt Gagnon, who worked for Pingree’s opponent, will explain the thinking behind them making that an issue.)

Since her 14 percentage point win in 2010, Pingree has amassed more of a record and developed more of a national presence. Meanwhile, she has a good set of life experiences, including starting and running a business. Pingree also has a warm yet serious temperament. Those are, needless to say, good qualities for a candidate, and they can help her reach out to voters in the second district.

Given the political winds of 2012, I would expect that Pingree will garner significant support in her congressional district this year. This is a very strong basis for a Senate candidacy.

For the Senate race, it is still unclear whether an independent — Angus King or Eliot Cutler – will enter the race and which Republicans will run.

Whoever ends up running for the first congressional district, the race there would start with a Democrat favored to hold the seat.

Michaud has been a strong candidate in the second district. But only in 2012 did it appear that he would have a competitive opponent, the most competitive since he won the seat for the first time, beating Kevin Raye. As the incumbent with a close connection to the district, Michaud remains more likely to win than not.

Numerous remaining mysteries involve Republicans, a big question surrounding what Kevin Raye will do.  Will he continue his candidacy in the second district or will he run for the Republican nomination for Senate?

Updates on the Republican field

1. Kevin Raye has decided to stay in the second congressional district race.

2. The reason for why Republican Senate candidates have been slow to announce was revealed by GOP Chair Charlie Webster.

They want the prospective Independent candidates to go first.

Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster said Thursday that GOP leaders are discussing who would be the strongest Republican candidate in a three-way Senate race. He said they assume that former Gov. Angus King, an independent, will run in November.

King, who has said he is considering running, has until June to collect petition signatures. Candidates who want to run in the party primaries on June 12 have until March 15 to submit at least 2,000 voter signatures.

Webster said King — whom he described as a “liberal Democrat” — would take votes from the Democratic nominee, and that Republicans would stand the strongest chance in the general election with a candidate who believes in the core principles of the Republican Party.

“I think you will have a race with two Democrats and a Republican,” he said. “We need to be different than they are.”

While any candidate is free to run on their own, Webster said, Republican leaders have put together a short list of potential candidates and are trying to make a “careful” decision about which one would fare best in the general election. Source

3. Steve Abbott has announced he will not be a candidate for Senate.

4. Deborah Plowman is gathering signatures for the Senate.

5. Secretary of State Charlie Summers was the first Republican to take out petitions to run for Senate. Summers oversees Maine’s election process. If he is a candidate, he would probably need to take a leave of absence, resign, or delegate the elections part of the job to someone else.

6. State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin has now also taken out petitions papers for the Senate seat.

7. And now former State Senate President Rick Bennett will be gathering petition signatures.

8. Scott D’Amboise has been gathering signatures for a long time, as he planned to run against Olympia Snowe. There are conflicting reports as to whether he has gathered sufficient signatures.

9. Attorney General Bill Schneider is gathering signatures as well.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.