WASHINGTON — Speaking Wednesday as a potential U.S. Senate candidate who has formed an “exploratory committee,” Democrat Jon Hinck criticized Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe’s vote against President Obama’s $447 billion jobs plan as a “no” vote that is “bad for jobs, bad for Maine.”

Hinck, a state representative from Portland, is one of two Democrats who are considering running against Snowe next year, and he appears to be on the verge of making his entry official.

Snowe and Maine Sen. Susan Collins joined other Republicans Tuesday in voting against a motion on the bill, as did two Senate Democrats, producing a 51-48 vote that fell far short of the 60 needed to end debate and go to a final vote.

Snowe and Collins indicated that they weren’t satisfied with having just an up-or-down vote on the bill, but both said there are job-creating elements that Obama and Democrats back that they, too, could support.

“Job creation is indisputably our nation’s number one priority, and there are elements of the president’s package that Republicans and Democrats should be able to agree upon,” Snowe said in a statement after the vote. “Unfortunately, yet again the Senate was faced with a take it or leave it package to which no amendments would be allowed on this bill with massive and wide-ranging implications.”

Hinck singled out Snowe, who will try to win a fourth term next year, on letterhead that carries a logo saying: “Making change happen for Maine Jon Hinck U.S. Senate Exploratory Committee.”

Forming an exploratory committee allows Hinck to begin raising money and contacting donors as a potential candidate. Crossing a $5,000 fundraising threshold would require him to file as a candidate.

Former Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap of Old Town also is considering a run. Snowe has two announced tea party-affiliated challengers for the GOP primary, Scott D’Amboise of Lisbon Falls and Andrew Ian Dodge of Harpswell.

The campaign finance report that Snowe will file this week shows she had more than $3.2 million as of Sept. 30, after raising more than $792,000 during the third quarter of this year.

Hinck still is “exploring the race, and that involves making sure we can raise the kind of money it will take to take on Sen. Snowe,” said Sean Flaherty, an exploratory committee aide for Hinck.

Hinck “couldn’t sit back and ignore the opportunity to question Snowe’s vote on this last bill.”

In his statement, Hinck endorses the jobs bill, which includes an extension of the Social Security payroll tax reduction and would be financed largely with a tax surcharge on people with incomes of $1 million and more. The bill also would allocate money for infrastructure projects and hiring teachers and first responders.

“Voting no on job creation is inexcusable, particularly when the plan is entirely paid for by a fair and modest increase in income tax on money earned above one million dollars a year,” Hinck said.

Snowe said the proposed surcharge on millionaires would hit many small business owners.

“We should have had the opportunity to improve this bill that regrettably threatened to actually cost jobs, by raising taxes on small businesses,” Snowe said.

Justin Brasell, Snowe’s campaign manager, said Democrats privately view the jobs bill and its call for higher taxes on millionaires as a “silver bullet for the 2012 election” more than a policy that would create many jobs.

Jonathan Riskind — 791-6280

[email protected]

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