OLD TOWN, Maine — Matt Dunlap, former state representative and secretary of state, stood Saturday morning in the same union hall he used to announce he was running for state office to let Mainers know he wants to represent them in the U.S. Senate.
The Old Town Democrat said he understands it will be a challenge to go up against 33-year veteran U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe in the 2012 election, but added with what is happening in Washington and with the economy, a change is needed.
“It’s obvious to me that what we’re doing isn’t working,” Dunlap said. “That’s why I am running.”
Dunlap, 47, who served eight years in the state’s House of Representatives and was Maine’s secretary of state until earlier this year, announced that he is seeking his party’s nomination to run against Snowe, who he says “is on the wrong side of every bread-and-butter economic issue that matters to working families.”
“I am running because we do need change in Congress,” he said. “I believe the right kind of change starts with electing people who know … what it is like to work hard and make ends meet.”
He said later, “I mow my own lawn, I wash my own truck. I’m active in my community and my church. I hunt and fish.”
Dunlap cited Snowe’s votes against extending tax cuts to working families and protections to prevent another Wall Street recession, as well as her support for permanent extensions to former President George W. Bush’s economic policies that cut funds for troops, education, and environmental protections, as reasons to consider a change in leadership.
“Last week, Senator Snowe was the only member of Maine’s congressional delegation who voted against extending the payroll tax for working families,” he said. “I strongly disagree. Where do you stand?”
Dunlap, who has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Maine, is running against state Rep. Jon Hinck of Portland for the Democratic nomination. Hinck is a former environmental lawyer and self-described progressive.
Snowe, a three-term senator and former eight-term U.S. House member, already faces a primary challenge next June from two candidates, Scott D’Amboise and Andrew Ian Dodge, both tea party-backed conservatives.
D’Amboise of Lisbon Falls lost a Maine congressional election in 2006, and Dodge of Harpswell is a freelance writer who has acted as a spokesman for the tea party in Maine.
So far, Snowe is far ahead of any challenger in campaign funding, with $3.2 million in cash on hand as of Sept. 30, compared with D’Amboise’s $182,000, according to Federal Election Commission filings. The FEC said Dodge, Dunlap and Hinck had not reported financial activity to that date.
Snowe’s track record for winning and her financial edge will not distract her, according to a campaign statement.
“Sen. Snowe’s approach to this race will be the same as her approach to everything she does,” the statement said. “She is working hard, taking nothing for granted, listening carefully to her constituents, serving as a fierce advocate for Maine’s interests and battling to find thoughtful solutions.”
Snowe has never lost an election.
Members of Emerge Maine, a group of young Democratic women training on how to run for office, stopped by the United Steelworkers Local 80 union hall on Main Street in Old Town Saturday morning, to watch Dunlap make his announcement.
“We’re here to see the process,” said an Emerge Maine member from Portland, who brought along her 3-month-old daughter, Maple, wearing a T-shirt that read “future president.”
Orono resident Isobel Moises, who is taking the Emerge Maine class, said after the announcement was over that it was interesting to see the political process unfold.
“I thought it was great to hear his ideas,” she said of Dunlap.
Dunlap said his time in the state Legislature and as a three-time secretary of state allowed him to help people living in the state, and he is running for Congress to continue to help Mainers.
“When you can help people it’s a tremendous feeling and it’s a great thing to do,” he said. “If I win, I can make a difference.”
Those interesting in seeing all of Dunlap’s goals can go to his new website, Dunlapforsenate.com.
Bangor Daily News writer Eric Russell and the Associated Press contributed to this report.