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King’s attack ad from 1994 shows he ‘says one thing, and does another,’ Summers campaign says

Seth Koenig | BDN
Seth Koenig | BDN
Lance Dutson, campaign manager for Republican U.S. Senate candidate and current Maine Secretary of State Charlie Summers, fields questions from reporters Monday morning, Aug. 6, 2012, in Portland.

PORTLAND, Maine — Republican U.S. Senate candidate Charlie Summers went on the offensive against independent front-runner Angus King Monday, noting that King used an ad comparing an opponent to a mummy while running for governor in 1994 before taking his current stance against negative campaigns.

Lance Dutson, Summers’ campaign manager, unveiled the Republican’s first video commercial of the general election campaign Monday morning at The Regency Hotel in Portland. Dutson said the ad was made in direct response to a King campaign press conference a week ago in which supporters from Maine’s business community decried a U.S. Chamber of Commerce television advertisement against him.

So far, the Summers campaign isn’t airing the ad on TV stations or online, beyond posting it to YouTube and its own website. The campaign says it’s likely to make an online advertising buy, and it might run the ad on television in the future.

“Angus King clearly doesn’t like negative ads when they’re about his record, but when they come from his campaign it’s a whole different story,” Dutson said. “In 1994 when he was down in the polls, he ran a series of attack ads against Democratic Gov. Joe Brennan. These attack ads weren’t about Gov. Brennan’s record, they were personal attack ads. They attempted to depict Gov. Brennan as old and obsolete, at one point even comparing him to a mummy.

“These weren’t issue ads, they were personal attacks,” he continued. “Now that Angus’ record is finally getting vetted, he seems to have had a sharp change in perspective about negative ads.”

Summers was not present at the Monday morning event. Dutson told reporters the candidate was at work in his job as Maine’s secretary of state. Summers and King are also facing Democrat Cynthia Dill and independents Andrew Ian Dodge, Steve Woods and Danny Dalton.

Kay Rand, King’s Senate campaign manager, said the former governor was reluctant to go negative in 1994 and ultimately regretted running the negative ad.

“We really attempted to use humor to make the comparison,” said Rand, who also ran King’s 1994 campaign. “It’s probably a stretch to call it an attack ad.”

King decided against using negative ads when he ran for re-election in 1998, Rand said, and King won’t use negative ads this campaign season during the race to replace Olympia Snowe in the U.S. Senate.

“The only person running negative ads right now is Charlie Summers and the U.S. Chamber on Charlie’s behalf,” Rand said.

The U.S. Chamber’s $400,000 ad buy launched last month with a television commercial dubbing King the “King of mismanagement” and highlighting that state spending “skyrocketed” to $2.6 billion under his watch.

King supporters countered that the booming economy of the time allowed him to make much-needed and long-overdue investments in infrastructure and business attraction, which the state has since benefited from.

The Summers campaign took the battle a step further Monday, saying the King campaign reaction to the U.S. Chamber ad represents the latest example of the independent former governor “saying one thing, and doing another.”

Dutson said that while King asked his opponents in the Senate race to swear off super-PAC funding — campaign financing from political action committees that can spend unlimited sums as long as they act independently of candidates — King was the first candidate in the race to benefit from super-PAC money.

In May, a group called icPurple Inc. spent nearly $24,000 to produce an online ad supporting King. Ted Watts, founder of computer manufacturer Gateway Inc., founded the independent political action committee. In calling on his opponents to disavow super-PACs, King said he would ask icPurple to remove its ad supporting him.

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