AUGUSTA – The man who led Gov. Paul LePage’s political organization is the new executive director of the Maine Republican Party.
Jason Savage, former executive director of Maine People Before Politics, started the new job Friday, said Beth O’Connor, the party’s vice chair. The party’s former chairman, Charlie Webster, said LePage had wanted Savage installed as executive director after LePage won in 2010, but Webster said no.
The party announced the hiring of Savage on Facebook over the weekend.
Under his leadership, Maine People Before Politics published reports on perceived media bias and legislators’ voting records and issued scathing news releases criticizing the governor’s opponents. Brent Littlefield, LePage’s political adviser and strategic director at Maine People Before Politics, said the organization will likely continue in similar form.
Webster told the Portland Press Herald in December that LePage made clear in the days after the election “that his people were going to run the party.”
LePage “really wanted to be more involved in the operation of the party than what I was willing,” Webster said Monday. “I felt people who I hired would be loyal to me and not to any particular campaign.”
Littlefield wouldn’t comment on Webster’s remarks, and Savage said rumors on that subject “were way overblown.”
“I may have been willing to work with the party, but it didn’t work out that way,” he said.
O’Connor said she didn’t fear the party getting too close to LePage.
“One of our goals is to hopefully get Gov. LePage re-elected so we don’t have to run someone that doesn’t have the experience,” she said. “We knew (Savage) had the skills, he’s young, he’s got a lot of get-up-and-go and we all thought he’d be a great fit. There was no dissension in the ranks.”
Savage said he worked at Marden’s Surplus and Salvage for about 10 years in various roles until early 2011. That’s where he met LePage, the general manager of the discount chain from 1996 until after his election.
Savage volunteered and worked for LePage’s campaign in 2010. State records show he was paid $4,000 in salary, plus some mileage reimbursement. Savage said most of that was essentially a reimbursement for time and money spent during the campaign.
Littlefield said Savage was one of LePage’s earliest confidants as he considered his run for governor.
“Jason has a keen political mind and he’s always had an active interest in politics,” Littlefield said. “I think Jason will work very, very hard to make sure the positive messages about changes that have been made to improve Maine’s economy get out.”
O’Connor said Savage has demonstrated an ability to work with all types of Republicans, and party unity will be critical in 2014, when U.S. Sen. Susan Collins also is up for re-election.
Michael Shepherd can be contacted at 370-7652 or at: