PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee is buying $410,000 worth of TV advertising in the U.S. Senate race in Maine, marking the first big Democratic outlay in the race.
Executive Director Guy Cecil suggested Friday that the money will be used to fight Republican candidate Charlie Summers, who's benefited from more than $1.7 million in TV ads sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and a GOP-led super PAC, Maine Freedom.
"Charlie Summers should not be in the United States Senate, and it is time every Mainer knows it," said Cecil, who described Summers as "an anti-choice tea partier" who wants to eliminate the Department of Education, privatize Social Security and protect tax breaks for companies shipping jobs overseas.
Rob Jesmer of the National Republican Senatorial Committee said Democrats should make clear who they are supporting.
The Democrat in the race, state Sen. Cynthia Dill, is lagging in the polls. The front-runner is former Democrat and now independent Angus King, who served as Maine's governor for two terms.
Alliances are made muddier because King declines to say which party he would caucus with. Republicans assume he will caucus with Democrats, but King refuses to say. He has said he could caucus either with Democrats or Republicans, and has even suggested he could switch from one to the other, depending on the issue.
So far, Republicans have focused their resources on King, not Dill, accusing him of being a Democrat-in-independent's clothing who grew the size of government while governor. U.S. Chamber attack ads during prime-time Olympics coverage this summer labeled him "king of spending" and "king of mismanagement."
Summers spokesman Drew Brandewie said Democrats want to attack Summers because he's gaining momentum.
"This only confirms what we already knew," Brandewie said. "Charlie's message of low taxes, less spending and balanced budgets is resonating with Mainers and this race is only going to get tighter."
Dill had no immediate response to the Democratic committee ads while King put some distance between himself and the Democrats.
"This is a decision made by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee," King said. "I am running as an Independent and we are going to continue to work on the important issues facing our state and the nation.
"As I said the night I announced, no one is going to tell me how to vote except the people of Maine," he said.
Maine's importance was underscored Friday by visits from national Democratic and Republican party leaders.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus attended a luncheon in South Portland and paid a visit to the Victory Center in Westbrook, one of 10 GOP field offices across the state.
Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, co-chairman of President Barack Obama's re-election campaign, joined former Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania in delivering dual keynote addresses at the Maine Democratic Party's annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner at the Portland Marriott.
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