Is Charlie Summers an Olympia Snowe Republican? (with update)

Charles Summers

The answer to the question, “Is Charlie Summers an Olympia Snowe Republican?,” is pretty simple: NO

If Summers was an Olympia Snowe Republican, at the very least he would have endorsed her when she faced a challenge from Tea Party candidate Scott D’Amboise.

But he didn’t.

According to John Richter, Senator Snowe’s chief of staff:

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.

This, by itself, gives the lie to claims — which will increasingly come, as Summers tries to reposition himself for the general election — that Summers is a moderate.

(By the way, Richter’s phrasing, that “Summers wasn’t able to endorse her,” is very telling, both as concerns the tone toward Summers, and the implication that Summers lacked political confidence or even courage.)

In the context of the Republican primary field, he had some candidates to his right, but that is a reflection of the extent to which the party as a whole as moved far, far right. Summers is more conservative than Rick Bennett and Bill Schneider.

In addition to not endorsing Olympia Snowe, Summers has espoused positions that are certainly to the right of Snowe’s. For instance, in answers to questions from the Bangor Daily News, Summers said that he had signed the Norquist pledge not to raise taxes and supports the Ryan budget plan, which would voucherize Medicare and block grant Medicaid.  He also said he does not think climate changing is occurring.

Schneider shares Snowe’s views on abortion and Snowe “donated her mailing list to Maine Attorney General William Schneider to help him gather petition signatures to get on the primary ballot.” Summers supports access to legal abortion only in cases of rape, incest, and threat to the life of the woman.

Charlie Summers is no Olympia Snowe Republican.


Update – 6.16.12: As Jason Savage of Maine People Before Politics, the group linked to the goals of Maine Governor Paul LePage, pointed out to me, Gov. LePage endorsed Olympia Snowe. He contends thus, according to “my logic . . LePage is a moderate because he endorsed [Snowe].”

I disagree with Mr. Savage. Why?

First, it is the norm for elected officials of the incumbent senator’s party to endorse him or her, particularly when the the incumbent is highly respected and popular in the state. Snowe’s Maine job approval in March 2012 was 69%. Since these endorsements are expected, it means more and carries more information, when a candidate does not endorse.

Second, if that were not enough, Gov. LePage has long-standing ties to Snowe that go beyond politics. As reported in the conservative National Review in late 2010,

[LePage said] he will “absolutely” support Snowe, regardless of who jumps in against her. His loyalty, he adds, will “never turn.” For LePage, it’s personal. He says Snowe’s late husand Peter Snowe helped to get him off welfare and into college. His support for Senator Snowe, he says, “transcends politics,” due to his relationship with and “respect” for the Snowe family.

Third, my assessment of Secretary of State Summers is not solely based on his refusal to endorse Senator Snowe, but rather includes a number of policy positions. For example, Snowe did not sign the Norquist pledge never to raise taxes on anyone and said “there is strength in compromise, courage in conciliation and honor in consensus-building” while Summers has signed Norquist’s pledge, a promise that makes Snowe’s approach to legislating nigh-impossible.


Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.