LEWISTON — The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will continue to aggressively support Republican Charlie Summers in his bid for the U.S. Senate, its national political director said Tuesday.

The Chamber also will continue to criticize former Gov. Angus King, the independent frontrunner in the race, said Rob Engstrom, who praised Summers during a news conference outside Simones’ Hot Dogs.

“We think that there’s an opening here in this race,” Engstrom said. The Maine race is one of 13 that the Chamber is focusing its resources on, he said.

The Chamber spent $400,000 on television ads criticizing King for increasing the state’s budget as governor and leaving office with a $1 billion gap between revenue and spending. King has pointed out the gap followed a downturn in the economy, though the chamber ad calls him the “King of mismanagement.”

“We’re going to continue to hold Gov. King accountable for his record,” Engstrom said Tuesday.

Engstrom would not say whether the Chamber will spend more money on advertising in the Maine race, but said his appearances in Bangor, Lewiston and Biddeford Tuesday show that the group is committed to helping elect Summers.

“He’s someone that understands the free enterprise system,” Engstrom said. He said Summers has business experience, opposes the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, and supports the Keystone XL pipeline and domestic oil exploration.

“Gov. King and (Democrat) Cynthia Dill disagree,” Engstrom said.

King’s campaign pointed out that the former governor has not yet taken a position on the XL pipeline project. And it issued a statement from King saying his administration was a strong advocate for businesses. “It just shows how out of touch Washington is with Maine,” he said.

The U.S. Chamber’s anti-King ad drew criticism from some Maine business owners and a small business coalition who said King was a very pro-jobs governor. The Maine State Chamber of Commerce is not affiliated with the national group and disassociated itself from the ads.

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