January 21, 2012

Dunlap, Dill to challenge Snowe for Senate

By Jonathan Riskind jriskind@mainetoday.com
Washington Bureau Chief

WASHINGTON -- Two Democrats said Friday that they are running for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, expanding the Democratic primary field to four.

State Sen. Cynthia Dill, D-Cape Elizabeth, made it official, after saying earlier this month on her blog that "against all odds" she was considering a U.S. Senate run.

"I am going to go for it," Dill said in a phone interview Friday. "My hope is that Maine is willing to vote for a new voice in Washington, a new generation of leadership."

Dill won her District 7 state Senate seat in a special election in May. She said she intends to give up that seat to run for federal office.

Former Secretary of State Matt Dunlap of Old Town and state Rep. Jon Hinck of Portland entered the Democratic primary late last year.

A political newcomer said Friday that he, too, is joining the Democratic primary.

Benjamin Pollard, who owns Pollard Builders in Portland, said in a phone interview that he is running on a platform stressing economic development, national security and environmental concerns. He hopes it will appeal to Democrats and Republicans alike.

"I could serve as a bridge between the parties and help the parties work together," said Pollard.

Snowe, who is seeking her fourth term in the Senate, is being challenged in the GOP primary by two tea party-affiliated Republicans: Scott D'Amboise of Lisbon Falls and Andrew Ian Dodge of Harpswell.

Snowe won re-election in 2006 with 74 percent of the vote.

Snowe's campaign said Friday that it had nearly $3.4 million on hand as of Dec. 31, after raising more than $629,000 during the final three months of 2011. Other candidates have not released their fundraising numbers yet -- the deadline for sending year-end reports to the Federal Election Commission is Jan. 31. Snowe's totals likely will far exceed those of any of her rivals.

Nathan Gonzales, deputy editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report in Washington, said Friday that the new entrants to the Democratic primary don't change his view that Snowe remains a strong favorite.

"Democratic chances of winning a Senate seat in Maine have nothing to do with their nominee," Gonzales said. "Democrats need Olympia Snowe to lose in the primary, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen."

Jennifer Duffy, senior editor for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report in Washington, said that while she will continue to monitor the race, "at this point none of these candidates seem to be a real threat to Snowe."

Hinck's campaign released a statement saying that Dill's decision to enter the Senate race "makes it apparent that she supports what our campaign has been pointing out for months: Olympia Snowe, like most in Congress, is influenced by the powerful special interest groups in Washington and not the people of Maine."

Dunlap said he welcomes other Democrats to the primary. "I am glad other people have the same drive to make things better."

Justin Brasell, Snowe's campaign manager, said Snowe "has always put Maine first and looks forward to making her case to voters this year and discussing her efforts to protect and create jobs in Maine's farming, fishing, forestry and ship building industries."

Dill was a three-term state representative before she won the special election to replace Democratic Sen. Larry Bliss, who resigned to take a job in California.

Dill recently formed a group to advocate for the proposal by environmentalist and businesswoman Roxanne Quimby to create a national park in northern Maine.

That proposal is controversial, but Dill said she is "not going to back down in my belief that Maine needs to diversify its economy and welcome new ideas and industries to the North Woods."

Dill noted that she also is a backer of a major project, funded by federal stimulus and private dollars, to expand broadband access to rural areas in Maine.

Jonathan Riskind -- 791-6280


Twitter: MaineTodayDC

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