AUGUSTA, Maine — Charlie Summers has turned to the leader of a conservative advocacy group and experienced Republican operative to manage his campaign.
Summers said Thursday his campaign has hired Lance Dutson, CEO of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, to lead the Republican’s bid for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Olympia Snowe.
“Lance Dutson is an outstanding leader with a sharp political mind,” Summers said in a statement announcing Dutson’s hire. “This will be a challenging race, and Lance will help lead us to victory in November.”
Dutson joined the Maine Heritage Policy Center in August 2011 after working separate stints as communications director for House Speaker Robert Nutting and the Maine Republican Party. He also has worked for Maine Sen. Susan Collins and New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, both Republicans.
Dutson said he’s excited to return to electoral politics and that Summers would fit well in a line of Maine senators that includes Margaret Chase Smith, Collins and Snowe.
“He’s known for approaching things not so much from a moderate ideology, but a moderate approach to issues and a level of decorum and respect that I think is very much in keeping with that same heritage,” Dutson said.
Former Gov. Angus King “is enjoying a very major name ID advantage right now,” Dutson said. But “Charlie’s a determined campaigner.”
While Summers has been unsuccessful in his runs for Congress from Maine’s southern 1st District, Dutson said the Senate race has a different calculus.
“Now that you factor in the more conservative 2nd District, you can see a very specific path to victory,” he said.
Under Dutson, the Maine Heritage Policy Center began the conservative news blog The Maine Wire and sought boxes of documents from the Maine State Housing Authority that the think tank said showed inappropriate and wasteful spending.
Last month, the liberal nonprofit Maine’s Majority published a string of emails it obtained under Maine’s Freedom of Access Act that the group said showed collusion among Dutson, state Treasurer Bruce Poliquin and MaineHousing board chairman Peter Anastos to force out former MaineHousing director Dale McCormick for political reasons. The Maine Heritage Policy Center and Poliquin had been highly critical of McCormick’s management of Maine Housing.
Anastos earlier this month denied that a “witch hunt” had taken place aimed at removing McCormick.
Along with King, Summers is facing Democratic state Sen. Cynthia Dill and independent Steve Woods in the Senate race. Summers won a six-way Republican primary on June 12 to become his party’s Senate nominee.
Dutson said the Maine Heritage Policy Center plans to announce a permanent replacement for him on Monday.
“I think what I’m most proud of is being part of this team that has made a huge impact on the public policy discussion in Maine,” he said.