SOUTH PORTLAND (AP) – A union representing 25,000 current and retired educators is endorsing U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe in her re-election race against Democrat Jean Hay Bright.

The Maine Education Association said Snowe, a Republican who is seeking a third term, has a record of support for public schools.

The union cites Snowe’s cosponsorship of the E-Rate program, which has wired more than a million classrooms to the Internet, her calls for reforms in the No Child Left Behind Act and her efforts to restore student loan funding.

The MEA, which announced its endorsement Wednesday, is affiliated with the 2.8 million-member National Education Association. The MEA also endorsed Snowe in her bid for re-election to the Senate in 2000.

The endorsement is based on a lengthy interview of candidates on such subjects as school vouchers, tuition tax credits, special education laws and health care, said MEA President Chris Galgay.

The MEA also has endorsed both of Maine’s Democratic congressmen, Reps. Tom Allen and Mike Michaud, in their re-election races. Allen is challenged by Republican Darlene Curley in the 1st District, and Michaud faces the GOP’s Scott D’Amboise in the 2nd District.

Earlier this month, the union endorsed Democratic Gov. John Baldacci for re-election. In doing so, the union bypassed Republican candidate Chandler Woodcock, a former teacher who declined an invitation to meet with representatives of the organization.

In other endorsements, Green Independent gubernatorial candidate Pat LaMarche has received the backing of Maine Friends of Animals, the group that unsuccessfully pushed for an end to bear baiting in a statewide referendum two years ago.

The organization said LaMarche is the only candidate who believes that wildlife decisions belong to all Mainers, not just hunters.

Robert Fisk Jr., director of the group, said Baldacci helped defeat the referendum, which would have made it illegal to hunt bears with using bait, dogs or traps. Fisk said Woodcock has no shown no interest in animal welfare issues.

AP-ES-08-31-06 0913EDT

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