Republican U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe has a history of supporting down-ticket candidates. Now she’s going the extra mile in supporting the challenger in a state Senate race.
Snowe is appearing in a 30-second television ad supporting Republican Chris Tyll, who’s running against independent Sen. Dick Woodbury in District 11, which includes Falmouth, Cumberland and Yarmouth. It’s her first appearance in an ad for a state legislative candidate.
Snowe, who will retire at the end of her term, has stayed out of this year’s race to replace her. She hasn’t offered more than verbal backing for Republican candidate Charlie Summers, who once worked on Snowe’s staff but last year declined to endorse her over a tea party candidate.
Snowe is appearing in an ad supporting Kevin Raye, the Republican candidate in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District. And she’s backing Tyll in a spot that has begun airing in Greater Portland. Tyll’s campaign paid for the ad.
Snowe’s campaign war chest, flush with over $2 million after she announced in February that she was getting out of the race, continues to disburse money. Her campaign fund has given $4,000 to Raye and nearly $16,000 to 28 legislative candidates, state political action committees and the Maine Republican Party.
She and her husband, former Gov. John McKernan, have given combined individual contributions of $700 to Tyll.
Snowe is the primary voice in Tyll’s ad, which includes footage from the Town Landing Market on Falmouth Foreside. She touts Tyll’s military and small-business experience and says he “believes we all need to work together” to solve Maine’s problems.
Tyll said Wednesday that he asked Snowe to appear in the ad during a caucus event in Falmouth earlier this year. Snowe’s primary residence is in Falmouth.
Snowe’s appearance in the ad underscores the competitive race in District 11.
Tyll, a former Navy Seal who has never held public office, has amassed nearly $42,000 in direct donations to his campaign.
Woodbury has been besieged by over $70,000 worth of ads either attacking him or touting Tyll. Woodbury, a publicly financed candidate, can spend no more than $20,454 on his race.
On Wednesday, a new political action committee led by William Harwood, an attorney with Verrill Dana, reported the first outside spending to support Woodbury — $6,500 for mailers opposing Tyll.
The Maine Conservative PAC entered the race earlier with unflattering mailers that Woodbury said distorted his record and policy positions. The PAC’s lead funders include state Treasurer Bruce Poliquin ($5,000); the chief operating officer of the state Department of Health and Human Services, William Boeschenstien Jr. ($3,000); and Elm Venture Fund LLC ($10,000), which is controlled by David Delorme, owner of the mapping company in Yarmouth.
Delorme is also helping to bankroll the PAC Ready to Lead, which has spent money on the race and run television ads supporting Tyll. More recently, the Maine Republican Party spent nearly $40,000 on the race.
Outgunned in the money race, Woodbury has tried to bolster his candidacy with high-profile endorsements.
Angus King, the former governor who is the independent candidate to replace Snowe in the U.S. Senate, recently campaigned for Woodbury, as did 2010 independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler.
Woodbury said the Snowe ad for Tyll isn’t surprising, but he acknowledged that he’s facing a stern challenge.
“Chris is running a good campaign and he’s working hard,” Woodbury said. “I’m out there working hard going door to door, too. I believe I’ve established a unique role as a true independent in the Legislature. I think that message is resonating with voters, especially during this time of highly partisan politics.”
Woodbury’s supporters have written opinion pieces in local newspapers highlighting Tyll’s role in a failed campaign last year to uphold the repeal of Maine’s same-day voter registration law. They also have attempted to align Tyll with the tea party and social conservatives.
Tyll has said some have misrepresented his position on abortion. He said he believes that life begins at conception but he supports Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows a woman to decide to have an abortion.
“Who am I to dictate what a woman does with her body?” he said Wednesday.
In Tyll’s television ad, Snowe says “he’ll never interfere with a woman’s right to choose.”
Tyll said he didn’t anticipate riding on Snowe’s “coattails.”
“I’m honored that she supports my candidacy,” he said. “She knows that I’m committed to taking each day in Augusta, issue by issue, vote by vote, for what’s good for the constituent.”
Staff Writer Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at: