From the right, Snowe faces a primary battle with health care worker Scott D'Amboise, of Lisbon Falls (who lost a bid to replace US representative Mike Michaud in 2006), and Tea Party activist Andrew Ian Dodge, of Harpswell. In a recent statement condemning Snowe for her votes on the indefinite military detention provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act, Dodge blasted the senator's "complete disregard for natural rights of individuals."

With more than $3 million in her campaign coffers, Snowe is a daunting incumbent; we'll see how much the cries of elitism chip away at her job security.

An important and potentially divisive issue may return to the ballot in 2012: after a devastating loss in 2009, same-sex marriage advocates think Mainers are ready to reconsider the question of whether or not gay couples can marry in the Pine Tree State.

"In June we launched a signature gathering effort because we intend to ask voters in 2012 to support the freedom to marry in Maine," says Equality Maine executive director Betsy Smith. "We were thrilled that by Election Day in November we had gathered over 100,000 signatures — a strong indication that voters want the opportunity to right the wrong that was done on Election Day 2009. We are also encouraged by the number of Mainers who have changed their minds on this issue — we know because we've had 35,000 face-to-face conversations with Mainers and many of them are on a journey from opposing marriage to supporting it."

However, in a tacit acknowledgement of the emotional toll of the last fight, Smith stops short of 100-percent commitment to a referendum.

"While we have a sufficient number of valid signatures to put marriage on the ballot in 2012, we want to ensure we are well positioned to win before making a final decision to move forward," she told the Phoenix. "By mid-January, we will make a formal decision about whether to go to the ballot in 2012."

City developments

Mayor Michael Brennan intends to use Portland's Economic Development Vision and Plan as a foundation for his work with local businesses and non-profits; in an interview at his new office in City Hall, he identified three prongs of his economic strategy that we can expect to see early in the new year:

• Work to create the "research triangle" Brennan talked about during his campaign, promoting collaboration and shared resources among local higher-ed, research, and medical institutions. This sector of innovation is where we'll find "the jobs of the future," he says —careers that pay well and keep Portland's young and well-educated workers from leaving the city.

• The launch of the "business visitation program," wherein city officials (including the mayor himself) will systematically visit local employers (non- and for-profit, large and small) to talk about — and subsequently develop policy around — the various challenges to and opportunities for economic growth in Portland.

• On a related note, Brennan plans to speak with city manager Mark Rees about the city's permitting and inspection processes; bureaucratic red tape in City Hall was cited as an impediment to business development during the mayoral campaign.

We'll also see the city move forward with its task force to determine the impact of crafters' markets in Portland (local artisans are concerned by the prospect of city officials defining the difference between "arts" and "crafts"); name a new police chief and search for a superintendent; continue to brainstorm ways to make the Thompson's Point development profitable and smart; explore a foreign language immersion program in Portland schools; and reinstate some type of bulky-waste curb pick-up.

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