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Chellie Pingree Announces She Will Not Run For Retiring Senator Olympia Snowe's Seat

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Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) announced Wednesday that she would not be running for the Senate seat being vacated by Olympia Snowe.
Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) announced Wednesday that she would not be running for the Senate seat being vacated by Olympia Snowe.

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) will not be running for the U.S. Senate, dashing the hopes of progressives who had already been raising money for her campaign.

Pingree's announcement came after former governor Angus King, an independent with strong name recognition, announced that he would be running. In an interview with The Huffington Post on Wednesday, Pingree said she was deterred by the complications of a three-way race. King, a moderate, was widely expected to siphon votes away from Pingree, potentially handing a win to Republicans.

A Public Policy Polling survey released on Tuesday showed that in a head-to-head contest, Pingree would win. But when there was a three-way race, King was likely to come out ahead.

Pingree said she talked to King several times, but she could not persuade him to not to run.

Part of the reason Pingree decided against running is because of the lessons learned from the 2010 Maine gubernatorial race, in which a three-way contest put the office into the hands of conservative Republican Paul LePage.

"We just had the pain of this experience in the gubernatorial campaign in Maine," she said. "Our polling numbers are great. We beat virtually anyone in a head-to-head. And we may even win this race. But it's just so complicated when you have a three-way race that it's hard to step into something knowing you could turn it into a Republican seat."

Pingree added that she enjoys being a congresswoman and is happy to remain in her current seat.

"Frankly, I wasn't looking for another opportunity," she said. "I happen to like being in the House of Representatives. There's a lot of good work to do."

The progressive movement had already coalesced around Pingree. Less than 24 hours after Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) said she would not be running for reeelection, more than 2,000 individuals had signed a petition the Progressive Change Campaign Committee circulated in hopes of drafting the congresswoman. MoveOn had a similar petition, which more than 2,500 Mainers signed.

With Snowe's retirement, Democrats were thought to be in a substantially stronger position than Republicans to hold on to the Senate. Maine currently has a Republican governor in LePage, but traditionally the state leans blue -- albeit with a quirky independent streak.

Pingree's Official Statement:

After careful consideration I have decided to run for re-election to the U.S. House this year. This has been a very difficult decision and I will always be grateful for the tremendous support I’ve received from people all across Maine and around the country. I have been humbled by the enthusiastic encouragement I’ve gotten -- from my neighbors here in Maine to my colleagues in Washington.

UPDATE: 1:34 p.m. -- Adam Green, co-founded of PCCC, responded to Pingree's decision in a statement. "Chellie Pingree would have been a bold progressive fighter in the Senate, and we are confident that she will be when Susan Collins retires," he said. "Angus King was willing to create a three-way race that handed this Senate seat to a far-right Republican -- a precise repeat of what happened in Maine's 2010 three-way gubernatorial race. Chellie Pingree's decision was based on what is best for the people of Maine and the future of progressive causes, not based on what was best for herself, and we look forward to continuing our work with her around progressive fights in Congress."

National Republican Senatorial Committee Executive Director Rob Jesmer also responded, saying, "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 onto power in Washington, than trying to advance their own party's principles. This is just the latest backroom deal we've seen from national Democrats and it adds to the cynicism that voters in Maine and around the country rightfully feel towards those running Washington these days."

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