Gov. Paul LePage continued his effort to promote school choice last week by employing an old governor’s trick — designating a special day.

LePage proclaimed July 31, 2012, to be “Milton Friedman Day.” The influential free-market economist was born 100 years ago last Tuesday and died in 2006. In his proclamation, LePage emphasized Friedman’s support for school choice, something LePage says would boost student performance in Maine.

“Friedman’s ideas have also helped lead to positive education reform in countries such as Chile and Sweden,” LePage’s news release said.

Wait, did someone say Sweden?

Only days before, LePage cited a Harvard University study of student achievement trends in 41 states and 49 countries as evidence of Maine’s failing education efforts. He noted that Maine’s rate of improvement was among the slowest among the states studied and got into some hot water by adding: “I don’t care where you go in this country — if you come from Maine, you’re looked down upon.”

In that same Harvard study, however, Sweden was dead last among the nations and actually saw its test scores drop at a dramatic rate. Chile, to be fair to Milton Friedman, was one of the most improved.

Snowe on Summers

U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, opened up last week about her chilly relationship with the former staff member who wants her job.

The former staffer, Maine Secretary of State Charlie Summers, responded that it was all a misunderstanding.

Snowe has not committed any financial help to the Republican Senate nominee despite a long relationship between the two and $2.36 million left over in Snowe’s campaign war chest.

It’s been known for months that the fallout is a result of Summers declining to endorse Snowe while she was facing a primary challenge from Scott D’Amboise, a tea party activist. But Snowe had not said much about it publicly.

Snowe spoke her mind to a writer for the website Politico: “… asked if she would appear at any fundraisers for Summers this year, give him a donation or stump with him on the campaign trail, Snowe said, matter-offactly: ‘Not at this moment.’

“When pressed for the reason, Snowe was equally as blunt: ‘He didn’t endorse me in my own primary. … He worked for me for (more than) six years … but he wasn’t able to endorse me during my primary.’ “

Some have speculated that Summers was thinking about his own political future at the time.

Asked about Snowe’s comments, Summers said it was his current job that got in the way.

“I think a lot of this is just sort of much ado about nothing, in the sense that I think the world of Olympia Snowe, I’ve worked for her and I support her and have supported her,” Summers said. “It was just a situation as a chief elections officer, I felt I could not get in and endorse candidates.”

However, Summers said, he has not yet told Snowe his reason for withholding his endorsement. “I haven’t had the opportunity to explain it to her but I intend to do so.”

Ad targets state senators

The Maine Democratic Party began running television and direct-mail ads Thursday, targeting five Republican state senators.

It’s an early start for campaign ads about legislative races, which typically begin after Labor Day. It’s also an indication of the high stakes attached to the battle for the Legislature.

The ads, dubbed “Paul Le-Page & The Rubber Stamps,” hit the GOP in potential swing districts by linking the legislators directly to Gov. Paul LePage’s policy agenda. The ad highlights the Republican 2011 health care overhaul, describing the new law as “cutting health care” while benefiting insurance companies. It also highlights the state’s low ranking in job creation.

Each ad identifies Sens. Garrett Mason, Lisbon Falls; Tom Martin, Waterville area; Nichi Farnham, Bangor; Chris Rector, Thomaston; and Lois Snowe-Mello, Poland. Each may be in for a tough re-election fight.

The ads were paid for by the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee. The political action committee posted $28,809 in contributions during the most recent campaign filings and more than $152,000 this year. The Maine Democratic Party transferred $50,000 to the PAC on July 12.

The Senate Democratic Campaign Committee also received a $75,000 contribution from S. Donald Sussman, according to the Maine Ethics Commission pre-primary report. Sussman owns The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal in Augusta and the Morning Sentinel in Waterville.

The ad was announced by the Maine Democratic Party in a news release that describes the senators as enablers of “LePage and the Republicans’ failed record on the economy and middle-class Maine families.”

“Maine Democrats mean business this election season, and that means making sure Maine voters know what’s happened in the State House since 2010,” party chairman Ben Grant said in a statement.

Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster said the ads were “cobbled together and desperate.”

“When you can’t run on your record, you resort to baseless attack ads,” Webster said in a statement. “Maine Democrats are following the Obama playbook of, ‘When your policies caused the problems, just go negative and hope people will forget.'”

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