AUGUSTA — Northern Maine is turning into a magnet for the three major candidates for Maine’s open U.S. Senate seat.

Democrat Cynthia Dill was on her way Friday to Woodland for a series of appearances this weekend. Republican Charlie Summers is lined up for Potato Blossom Festival events in Fort Fairfield. And independent Angus King was revving up his motorcycle for a 600-mile ride across Maine that starts Monday in Fort Kent and winds up in Kittery.

The three are vying for the seat left open after Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe decided not to seek re-election. Independents Andrew Ian Dodge, a tea party activist, Danny Dalton and Stephen Woods are also running.

King, who plans to ride with a group of friends, said his route will take him through a number of small towns that often don’t get included on candidates’ agendas.

“I’m sure we’ll talk issues, but it’s also a chance for me to relax a bit and do some listening,” said King. “The best part is that you can’t answer the phone on a bike.”

Dill offered King, the former two-term governor, a safe sendoff, saying, “I hope he wears a helmet and I hope he has good weather.” But that’s about where the kind words ended.

The Democratic state senator labeled King “the candidate supported by Washington insiders.”

In an emailed plea for campaign contributions, Summers’ campaign accused King of “hobnobbing with big dollar Washington lobbyists” and called into question his independence from special interests. Their comments came after King attended a campaign fundraiser in Washington earlier in the week that asked guests for donations of $500, $1,000 or $2,500.

King’s campaign defended his fundraising, saying any money collected “whether in Waterville or Washington is fully reportable so the people can see where the money is coming from. This is not the case with SuperPACS,” which allow limitless spending to influence elections and could weigh in for the other campaigns in the weeks ahead.

“The reality is Angus has to raise money in this campaign. He is expecting to face millions of dollars in negative advertising sponsored by outside groups,” said spokeswoman Crystal Canney. “Angus’ funds will not come from either party or their special committees.”

The latest federal campaign finance reports show King well ahead, with $900,000 in contributions as of June 30, compared to $239,000 for Summers, Maine’s secretary of state, and $91,000 for Dill’s campaign.

Meanwhile, Dill said she’s not getting the kind of support she should from the national party. She sent a letter Thursday to Patty Murray, chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in Washington, which said the party’s silence in the campaign “is deafening.”

Dill wrote that she has a legislative voting record of supporting key party principles and the interests of working class Maine residents. She said there’s “ample evidence” that King opposes much of the party’s core agenda, without mentioning King by name.

Dill said Friday she had spoken to Murray, a senator from Washington, who told her the DSCC will “continue to monitor the race.”

 

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