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Chamber of Commerce backs Angus King's GOP rival in Senate race

July 25, 2012|By Lisa Mascaro
  • Angus King, standing, visits with Lewiston, Maine, residents as part of his Senate campaign.
Angus King, standing, visits with Lewiston, Maine, residents as part of… (Amber Waterman / Sun Journal…)

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the Republican candidate in the Maine Senate race, throwing its clout behind the lesser known conservative rather than former Gov. Angus King, a popular independent candidate. 

Polls have given King a wide lead in the three-way contest, but Republican Charlie Summers, the secretary of state, has been counting on outside support to keep the seat opening up with the retirement of Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe in the GOP column.

The chamber has promised an aggressive voter education campaign as Republicans seek control of the Senate. Its endorsement was not unusual, but it further distances the GOP establishment from the independent King. The chamber’s backing of Summers comes because he "understands firsthand that free enterprise, not more government, will lead the American recovery," said Rob Engstrom, the chamber’s senior vice president and national political director.

King is running as an independent -- an appealing stance in politically moderate Maine, but one that is drawing criticism from Summers and the Democratic candidate, state Sen. Cynthia Dill.

The former governor has declined to state which party he would align with if he is sent to Washington, telling voters he would choose a party to caucus with, if necessary, based on which one gives him the most independence to stray from partisan orthodoxy.

Washington Democrats, including the party's campaign arm in the Senate, have not endorsed Dill, fueling the suggestion that they believe King would likely join them.

Republicans, though, see the three-way race as an opportunity for Summers.

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