Rep. Michael Michaud (D-Maine) is taking steps toward launching a bid for the seat that retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) will be vacating.

Michaud spokesman Greg Olson told The Hill that Michaud will start collecting petitions, but hasnt made a final decision.

With the short deadline we have, in order for the congressman to reserve his options, we took out the papers, Olson said.

Party candidates have until March 15 to submit petitions to qualify for the ballot for Senate in Maine.

Snowes unexpected Tuesday announcement that she will not seek another term stunned Washington, throwing into turmoil Republican plans to take control of the Senate. She had been positioned to easily win reelection, but her resignation offered Democrats a promising pickup opportunity in the centrist state.

A win by Democrats in Maine would complicate GOP efforts to flip the four seats they need for a majority in the Senate (if President Obama wins reelection).

Four Democrats and one independent had already announced plans to run for the seat before Snowe made her announcement, in addition to one Republican who planned to challenge her in the primary.

But by taking herself out of the picture, Snowe unleashed a scramble by both Democrats eyeing the open seat and Republicans who must now find a viable candidate to replace her. For Democrats, speculation immediately turned to Michaud and Rep. Chellie Pingree, another Maine Democrat.

In a statement Tuesday night, Pingree indicated she was considering a bid.

The secretary of states office in Maine said Michaud had been the only candidate to take out petition papers for Senate on Wednesday, but the office saw a flurry of activity in the congressional races. Likely anticipating that Michaud and Pingree will jump into the Senate race and leave their House seats open, seven candidates requested paperwork to run for their two seats.

Those candidates include state Sen. Cynthia Dill, one of the four Democrats who had planned to run for Snowes seat. State Senate Majority Leader Jon Courtney (R) and Majority Whip Deb Plowman (R) also picked up petitions, as did state House Minority Leader Emily Cain (D).

Michaud had been in solid shape for his reelection to the House, despite a primary challenge from state Senate President Kevin Raye (R). An internal poll commissioned by Michauds campaign in early February showed him 23 points ahead of Raye.

But even if Michaud drops his House reelection campaign in favor of a Senate bid, he might still have Raye to contend with. Raye told The Associated Press on Tuesday he too was considering running for Snowes seat.