- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 14, 2012

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Former Gov. John Baldacci said Wednesday that he won’t run for the U.S. Senate, becoming the third prominent Democrat to bow out of the high-profile race for a Senate seat that Democrats were given good odds of winning following Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe’s decision to retire.

Mr. Baldacci told the Associated Press that he didn’t want to relocate his family because his wife has a job in Bangor and his son is a student at the University of Maine. He also didn’t like the idea of traveling back and forth between Washington and Maine, as he did during eight years in the U.S. House.

“That’s really what it came down to. You can take the boy out of Maine, but you can’t take Maine out of the boy. It may be a shortcoming on my part, but it’s one that I’ve embraced,” Mr. Baldacci, a Bangor native, told the AP.

Mrs. Snowe’s announcement two weeks ago that she wouldn’t seek a fourth term gave Democrats a shot at winning a seat that Republicans were expected to keep easily. It also set off a scramble among potential candidates.

Former independent Gov. Angus King announced he’s running, making it a three-way race with the eventual Democratic and Republican nominees. For Republicans, four to five candidates have announced their intentions to run for Mrs. Snowe’s seat.

Four Democrats previously announced they were running for the seat. One of them, former Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, submitted his petitions on Wednesday.

But Democratic U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud both decided to defend their House seats rather than run for the Senate. Without such better-known candidates, Democratic donors might be less likely to invest heavily in the race, hurting Democrats’ prospects for winning the seat in November, said Ethan Strimling, a political analyst and Democratic activist in Portland.

And without deeper pockets and a widely recognized candidate, the Democratic Party runs the risk of finishing third in a three-way race, as it did in 2010 when Republican Paul LePage was elected governor, followed by independent Eliot Cutler and Democrat Libby Mitchell, Mr. Strimling said.

“Democrats are putting themselves in a very precarious position,” he said.

Democrats and Republicans face a deadline of Thursday for submitting petitions to get on the June primary ballot.

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