AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Republican Party has chosen a well-known conservative political operative as its executive director, according to former Maine GOP Chairman Charlie Webster and a Facebook post by the party.
On Saturday, the Maine GOP announced via its Facebook page that Jason Savage has been hired as executive director and former state Rep. John Robinson has been named the party’s field director. Savage replaces Michael Quatrano, who left the post last month.
Savage is known for his recent work on Gov. Paul LePage’s election campaign and as the co-founding head of an organization launched by LePage’s supporters called Maine People Before Politics. Robinson represented the Raymond area in House District 43 during the 122nd, 123rd and 124th legislatures. Among his assignments was as a member of the budget-writing Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee.
Webster, who abandoned his party seat last year after contentious and controversial state and national GOP conventions, said he has faith in Savage’s abilities but said Savage’s hiring represents a new direction for the party. Webster said when he was chairman, he wanted the Republican Party’s staff members and chairman to be unconnected to any present or potential candidate for elected office.
Savage’s close ties to LePage could be a departure from that, though neither Savage nor current GOP Chairman Rich Cebra responded Monday to requests for comment. No one was available to comment at the Maine GOP’s office in Augusta on Monday afternoon.
“He’s the governor’s guy, and the governor wanted someone in there he could work with,” Webster said of Savage. “I don’t think it matters who the executive director is. The chairman dictates the policy.”
Brent Littlefield, LePage’s senior political adviser, said Monday that close ties between an elected official and a political party are common from the president of the United States all the way to local politics. Littlefield said he himself has been involved in state-level Republican party elections since 1988. During some of that time, Littlefield was on the state GOP committee.
“It’s the same way in most states,” said Littlefield. “It’s a common thing.”
Littlefield said LePage has made public his opinions regarding the state party, including last November when he wrote a letter in support of Cebra’s election as chairman.
Committee members elected Cebra unanimously on Dec. 1, 2012, after Webster said he would not seek re-election and former state Rep. Beth O’Connor withdrew her candidacy on the day of the election. O’Connor was elected vice chairwoman.
“Everyone’s goal is to work together as a team to improve Maine’s economy,” said Littlefield. “That’s a focus of the governor and that’s been the focus of Chairman Cebra.”
Among the chief responsibilities of the chairman and party as a whole are raising money, recruiting candidates and working to get those candidates elected.
Lizzy Reinholt, spokeswoman for the Maine Democratic Party, said Monday afternoon that Savage’s ties to LePage were not of much concern, especially since the Democratic Party has a similar history.
“Unless we start seeing that there’s a conflict there, it’s kind of hard to prejudge,” she said.
Adrienne Bennett, LePage’s spokeswoman, on Monday referred questions to Savage.