Matthew Dunlap was born and raised in Bar Harbor, Maine. He went through the Bar Harbor school system and graduated from Mt. Desert Island High School, where he was a captain of the track team. He earned B.A. and M.A. degrees in history and English respectively from the University of Maine. Dunlap also completed the Senior Executives in State and Local Government program at Harvard University. Prior to entering politics, he worked in a variety of jobs including textile worker, fur trapper, publishing editor, radio talk-show host, cook, waiter, and bartender.
In 1996, Dunlap ran to represent Old Town in the Maine House of Representatives when incumbent Robert Keane retired after one term. Dunlap defeated Republican Sean Stillings with 48% of the vote. He won re-election in 1998 with 64% of the vote, in 2000 with 68% of the vote, and in 2002 unopposed.
Dunlap served in the Maine House of Representatives from 1996 to 2004. He was actively involved in environmental and wildlife issues, including as House Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. In 1999, he proposed restructuring the Atlantic Salmon Authority. He also supported legislation that increased moose hunting permits and sponsored a bill that would allow the Department of Inland Fisheries to contract with a consulting firm for the fisheries evaluation. He opposed the banning of deer decoys and the ultimately unsuccessful 2004 Question 2 referendum, which in his opinion would end bear hunting in the state.House Committee on Fish and Game (Chairman)
Joint Standing Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (Chairman)
House Committee on Reapportionment (Co-Chairman)
In 2004, Dunlap was elected Secretary of State of Maine by the Maine Legislature, a role in which he served from 2005 until 2011. During his tenure as Secretary of State, Dunlap oversaw the modernization of the way the Secretary of State's office delivers services to the public electronically and directed the implementation of Maine's Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act, allowing military personnel and others abroad secure and prompt access to the ballot. Dunlap also served as president of the National Association of Secretaries of State from 2010 until 2011. After the Republican Party took control of the Maine legislature in 2010, Dunlap was succeeded by State Senator Charlie Summers following a vote of 53% to 47%.
Dunlap was again selected to be Secretary of State by the Legislature after Democrats regained control of both its chambers in the 2012 elections. He took the oath of office on January 7, 2013. He is the first person elected to non-consecutive terms as Secretary of State since 1880, when S.J. Chadbourne held the position after holding it from 1876-1878.
He was re-elected to his position on December 3, 2014.
In November 2011, Dunlap took out the necessary paperwork to run against incumbent three-term Republican Olympia Snowe, who announced on February 28, 2012, that she had decided not to seek reelection. On March 14, 2012, Dunlap filed with the office of the Maine Secretary of State the signatures necessary to qualify for the June primary ballot. Dunlap was endorsed by former Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives Glenn Cummings, the Maine chapter of the League of Young Voters and the Communications Workers of America Local 1400, among others. He finished second in the primary with 18,202 votes (35.64%), behind State Representative Cynthia Dill, who won with 22,629 votes (44.31%). Dill went on to finish third in the general election, behind Republican Charlie Summers and the winner, Independent Angus King.
Dunlap lives in Old Town, Maine, with his wife, Michelle Dunphy, and their daughter. Dunlap is a founder of the Maine Youth Fish and Game Association and has served on the vestry of St. James’ Episcopal Church in Old Town.
The Campaign To Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, a ballot initiative sought to put the question of marijuana legalization before voters in November 2016, is suing the state of Maine for invalidating 26,779 signatures. The campaign had originally turned in 99,229 signatures from registered voters by the February 1 deadline in hopes of meeting the required number of 61,123 valid signatures to make the ballot. Secretary of State Matt Dunlap invalidated the signatures because the signature of the notary who signed the petitions allegedly did not match the signature on file with staff. A court reversed Dunlap's decision after petition circulators sued, stating it was an error of law, and requiring him to reconsider the petitions rejected. Dunlap declined to appeal the decision.