Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine’s 1st District is considering a run for governor, a move that could potentially send shockwaves through a crowded Democratic primary field.
From her office in Washington, D.C., Pingree says that the idea of a potential gubernatorial run is largely being driven by pressure from her supporters.
“I love doing the work that I do. I feel honored to be in Congress. A lot of people asked me to consider a gubernatorial run, so I said I would give it some serious thought. It would be wonderful to be in the state of Maine,” she said.
Pingree says it’s important for Democrats to take control of the governor’s office to undo what she said is a lot of damage inflicted by its current occupant, Republican Gov. Paul LePage.
Pingree and the governor have repeatedly and publicly clashed over the past seven years. So the idea of replacing LePage is an enticing one, both for Pingree and the progressive activists that adore her.
Pingree and Democrats have been the majority party in the House for just two terms since she was first elected nearly a decade ago, and out of power for the last four. Over that time Pingree has built up seniority, earning a spot on the powerful Appropriations Committee, which has given her a voice in funding decisions that directly effect Maine.
Right now, the progressive fight is acutely focused on the Republican-controlled Congress and President Donald Trump, whose unpopularity in national opinion polls has Democrats hoping for a wave year in next year’s congressional elections.
“I feel like our job is more important than ever. There’s a good chance the Democrats could be in control next year, and given a lot of the work I care about doing, it’s a great choice,” Pingree says.
She was first elected to Congress in 2008, defeating a large Democratic primary field and Republican Charlie Summers in the general election. Since then, she has easily defeated GOP challengers to hold the more liberal 1st District.
But her gubernatorial bid, if it happens, will spur widespread speculation about her viability as a statewide candidate. While the state’s more rural 2nd District has elected Democrats before, it has recently swung right, electing Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin twice, decisively backing LePage and picking Trump last year.
Pingree lost her first statewide race in 2002, when she attempted to defeat Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins. Collins won the contest by nearly 17 percentage points.
How much those factors will influence her decision is unclear. And so is the ratio of supporter pressure to personal ambition playing into her decision to run for governor or stay in Congress.
“A person can only run for governor if the fire is in their belly, if it’s exactly where they want to be and they think it’s the right choice at the right time. If this was 10 years ago, before I ran for Congress, I would have absolutely wanted to be the governor. It’s a great job,” Pingree said.
Ten Democrats are already in the race, but several could drop out or try to run for Pingree’s seat if she runs for governor.
She says she’ll make her decision by the end of the month.
This story was originally published Dec. 4, 2017 at 11:53 a.m. ET.