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Deadline Looming for Brennan to Decide on Gubernatorial Race

December 28, 1989

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) _ Joseph E. Brennan, who traded the governorship for John R. McKernan’s seat in Congress three years ago, faces a self-imposed deadline this week to decide whether to challenge McKernan’s re-election bid for governor in 1990.

Brennan, a Democrat, was constitutionally barred from seeking a third consecutive term in 1986, when he was first elected to Congress and Republican McKernan was elected governor, but no longer faces that obstacle.

For months, Brennan, 55, has courted speculation he would take on McKernan, 41, and he has been under increasing pressure from Democratic activists to do so.

Brennan’s closest advisers insisted Thursday that even they did not know whether he would seek the governorship or a third term in Congress.

″He still hasn’t made up his mind completely,″ David Redmond, Brennan’s congressional chief of staff, said after having lunch with his boss Thursday.

No announcement was expected before Friday, and ″it’s liable to be Sunday″ at midnight, Redmond said, referring only half-jokingly to Brennan’s promise that he would disclose his plans before the year’s end.

Brennan’s supporters’ hopes were buoyed by a recent independent poll showing that a Brennan-McKernan race would be a virtual dead heat, and Brennan fueled speculation earlier this month by appearing before 300 Democratic faithful who had gathered on his behalf in Augusta.

″In a sense,″ he told the crowd on Dec. 9, ″a governor is a little bit more like a quarterback and, in some respects, in the United States Congress, you’re a little more like an offensive lineman.″

McKernan, who has not yet announced his candidacy for re-election but has begun soliciting campaign contributions, has said he is convinced Brennan will enter the race.

Brennan has held open the prospect for too long to do otherwise, McKernan said last week. ″I just think that when it gets right down to it ... it’s going to be very hard for him to go to his friends and say, ’I’m not doing it.‴

Brennan’s deliberations also are being monitored by Maine’s other member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Republican Rep. Olympia J. Snowe, whom McKernan married this year.

Democratic leaders were hedging their bets on Brennan’s future Thursday.

″Right now I would not call it, but I’m not a betting person,″ said Democratic State Chairwoman Keron Kerr.

″What do you hear?″ state Sen. Barry J. Hobbins, a former state party chairman and one-time congressional candidate, asked a reporter who had called to ask him the same question.

Hobbins said he was surprised that speculation about Brennan’s future has spread so far outside of political circles. He said the subject came up Thursday morning when he stopped at a rural grocery store in western Maine.

″It’s unbelievable,″ said Hobbins. ″Everyone’s asking the question, whether it’s in Denmark, Maine, or the State House.″

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