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Pingree declines to seek Snowe’s seat

jessica rinaldi/Reuters

Chellie Pingree said she decided “to put the best interests of the state and the country ahead of my own.’’

PORTLAND, Maine - US Representative Chellie Pingree, Democrat of Maine, said Wednesday that she will not run for the US Senate seat being vacated by Republican Olympia Snowe, choosing instead to defend her House seat.

Pingree, who represents Maine’s southern coastal district, said she concluded she can best serve Maine by running for reelection.

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“There is much at stake in this election, and in the end I had to put the best interests of the state and the country ahead of my own,’’ she said in a statement.

Snowe, a moderate Republican, said last week she wouldn’t seek a fourth term, citing frustrations over partisan politics and gridlock in the Senate. Her decision set off a scramble by potential candidates since Republicans and Democrats have only until March 15 to submit 2,000 signatures to get on the June primary ballot.

If Pingree had run for Senate, she would have faced her longtime friend, popular former governor Angus King, who announced he’s running as an independent. Her decision not to run could mean more Democratic support for King, who if elected would be courted by both parties to join their Senate caucus.

“This is a personal relief to me because I wasn’t looking forward to running against a friend,’’ King said in a statement.

National Republicans, without offering specific proof, accused top Democrats in Washington on Wednesday of pushing aside Pingree, who has strong support from progressives, in favor of King, who is a popular figure in the state after serving two terms as governor from 1995 to 2003.

Republicans suspect Democratic leaders may have won some type of assurance from King that he would align himself with the party.

“The decision by national Democrats to throw Chellie Pingree and other proud Democratic leaders in Maine aside, in favor of an ‘independent’ who supported President Bush in 2000, makes clear they are more concerned with holding on to power in Washington, than trying to advance their own party’s principles,’’ Rob Jesmer, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said in a statement.

If King wins Maine’s Senate seat running as an independent, he could either caucus with Democrats or Republicans, or remain independent. Senators Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernie Sanders of Vermont are independents who caucus with Democrats. King suggested he could caucus on either side of the aisle, depending on the topic.

“He will be caucusing where he feels he’ll be most effective,’’ said spokeswoman Crystal Canney, who denied that King was cutting deals.

Harold Pachios, a lawyer and prominent Democrat in Maine, dismissed the theory that the Democratic machine was pulling strings, saying both Democratic and Republican operatives are waiting to see how things shake out. “You cannot decide this election in the first two days. It is now early March. The election is in November. Anybody who makes conclusive statements about what’s going to happen now doesn’t know what they’re talking about,’’ Pachios said.

Pingree is popular with Democrats.

— Associated Press

Democrats use Limbaugh tirade as fund-raising fuel

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Senator Claire McCaskill was so disturbed by Rush Limbaugh’s description of a law school student as a “slut’’ and “prostitute’’ that she decided to repeat his rhetoric, featuring it in a fund-raising appeal sent to thousands of supporters. The tactic has paid off nicely for the Democrat’s reelection campaign.

McCaskill is one of several female Democratic candidates facing competitive races who are seeking to capitalize on the conservative radio host’s comments to fuel their quests for the Senate or House. Their message: You can help fight Limbaugh - and, by extension, Republicans or Tea Party activists - by financing candidates who will stand up for women’s rights.

It’s not clear exactly how much the Democratic candidates have raised from their turn-the-tables appeals. But McCaskill’s campaign said she exceeded the goal spelled out in last weekend’s Limbaugh-themed e-mail blast to raise $10,000 in a day.

Limbaugh has apologized for his comments about Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown law student who testified to congressional Democrats in support of their national health care policy that would compel her Jesuit college’s health plan to cover birth control.

— Associated Press
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