Republican Senate candidate Charlie Summers accused independent Angus King on Monday of being hypocritical by complaining about an outside group’s harsh ads, saying King ran attack ads in his campaign for governor 18 years ago.

King’s campaign says what’s important is that he now disavows such tactics.

Lance Dutson, Summers’ campaign manager, suggested it’s easy for King to eschew attack ads now, while he’s leading in the polls, but the former two-term governor was willing to use them against Democrat Joe Brennan when he was trailing in the 1994 gubernatorial race.

“When he’s down in the polls, negative ads are great. But when he’s holding onto a lead, he wants to change the rules,” Dutson told reporters Monday.

The Summers campaign released an online video Monday featuring clips from King’s 1994 ads, which depicted the older Brennan as outdated and used an image of a mummy.

Kay Rand, King’s campaign manager, said King didn’t like using negative ads in 1994 and ran only positive campaign ads four years later. She suggested that Summers is dredging up the past, and that it’s not relevant.

When he announced his intention to seek Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe’s seat, King vowed to run a positive campaign even though he said he expected attack ads from the right and left.

The first major television attack came during NBC’s prime-time coverage of the Olympics. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce ads described him as a “king of spending” who increased the size of state government and left behind a $1 billion shortfall when he left office.

King’s campaign criticized the ads, and business leaders rallied behind him. Kevin Hancock, president and CEO of Hancock Lumber, described the $400,000 advertising campaign as “big, clumsy, out-of-state money bringing negativity and divisiveness” into the race.

Dutson said the Web video is a direct response to King’s criticism of the U.S. Chamber ads, and that King has a pattern of “saying one thing and doing another.”

He said King used his personal wealth to help win his first election as governor despite decrying big money in politics, disavowed contributions from so-called Super PACs while benefiting from them, and criticized the influence of special interests while going to Washington twice to raise money.

Dutson said Summers felt that the U.S. Chamber ads were fair.

 

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