Charlie Summers has won the Republican nomination to replace his former boss U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe. However, Summers’ unwillingness to back Snowe in her now-abandoned race against a tea party challenger may cost him the retiring political icon’s financial backing.

Snowe abruptly ended her campaign in February, citing claims of partisan brinksmanship and gridlock in the U.S. Senate. She did so with $2.36 million in campaign cash, which she later said would be used partially to back “like-minded” candidates.

Summers would seem a likely recipient of that funding. Snowe has a long history of supporting Maine Republicans running for Congress, including Summers, who received $5,300 from her political action committee in 2008 during his bid for the 1st Congressional District seat.

Additionally, Summers has had a long professional relationship with Snowe, who employed him as her state director for six years. She later helped him win the post of regional administrator for the U.S. Small Business Association.

However, Snowe isn’t making any firm financial commitments to her former staffer.

John Richter, Snowe’s chief of staff, said Thursday that the senator will support Summers as “the duly chosen Republican nominee.”

“She has a variety of options as to how to use her funds to help Republican candidates up and down the ticket, as she intends to do, although we haven’t made any decisions on how to specifically allocate those funds as of yet,” Richter said.

Snowe’s hedging stems from Summers’ decision last year to not formally endorse Snowe in her race against tea party-backed Scott D’Amboise. Snowe had been targeted by the tea party. As Snowe ramped up her campaign against D’Amboise, she approached Republican leaders in Maine for endorsements — endorsements that could blunt a local tea party surge against her.

Richter, in a written statement, confirmed that Snowe had approached Summers for an endorsement. Snowe secured the backing of state Senate President Kevin Raye, a former staffer, and Gov. Paul LePage, who won the Blaine House after garnering tea party support.

Summers, who has long harbored aspirations for higher office, declined to join their ranks.

“Kevin Raye endorsed Senator Snowe in her primary over Scott D’Amboise and was a member of her 2012 Leadership Team, whereas Charlie Summers wasn’t able to endorse her over Scott D’Amboise,” Richter wrote.

The statement makes public a long-rumored rift between Snowe and Summers.

It also illustrates how Snowe — often derided as a “RINO,” or Republican in name only — came to be viewed as a political liability to some members of the Maine Republican Party.

Jen Webber, Summers’ campaign director, was asked Thursday morning whether Summers had sought Snowe’s financial backing or spoken since his primary victory. Webber said Summers and Snowe “have not connected” and that it was unclear whether they would.

The Summers campaign was participating in a Republican unity event Thursday evening in North Yarmouth when Richter issued his statement. Webber did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Snowe’s financial backing and her husband, former Gov. John McKernan, could help Summers, who hopes to upset prohibitive front-runner Angus King. Summers’ primary campaign lagged in funding, forcing the Scarborough native to loan it $50,000 to sustain a television ad buy during the final days before the primary.

Summers already has been recognized publicly by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, a signal that outside money could be forthcoming. However, the level of that backing may depend on Summers’ ability to close what pundits believe is a wide gap against King.

Snowe already has made modest financial contributions to Republican candidates this year. Immediately after abandoning her re-election bid, she donated her mailing list to William Schneider to help him gather petition signatures to get on the primary ballot. She did the same for Raye, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-2nd District.

Some of Snowe’s campaign team transitioned to Schneider’s campaign, which finished fifth in the six-way primary. Her former treasurer, Rick Bennett, launched his own candidacy to win her seat and finished third.

Snowe and McKernan traditionally have backed GOP congressional candidates. In 2006 McKernan’s Education Management Corp. PAC donated $2,100 to 2nd District candidate D’Amboise, Snowe’s eventual tea party challenger. Snowe also deployed her state staff to help D’Amboise gather signatures get on the 2006 primary ballot.

Steve Mistler — 791-6345

[email protected]

Twitter: stevemistler


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