Thursday June 28, 2012 | 09:23 AM

Update - 2:08 p.m.: Dutson confirmed that he'll be leaving MHPC and joining the Summers campaign. Dutson said he'll officially step down as CEO Friday and that the organization will announce a replacement on Monday.

Dutson said he'll be joining Summers' staff full-time and that his leave from MHPC is will not be temporary but that he'll remain a lifelong supporter.

Dutson said the importance and the profile of the Senate race prompted him to make the decision.

"It's very important to make sure that the Republicans hold this senate seat and Charlie is a good friend. I have a huge amount of respect for him and I think he's the man to do the job. It's a totally natural transition and I'm very excited to be able jump right into the fight," Dutson said.

* * *

The Daily Caller, a national conservative blog site, has reported that Lance Dutson, the current head of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, is joining the U.S. Senate campaign of Republican candidate Charlie Summers.

The Daily Caller story quotes anonymous sources in the Summers camp confirming the hire. Dutson and the Summers campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The report builds on widespread rumors that the respected GOP Maine operative will assist Summers as a campaign strategist. Prior to becoming the CEO of the MHPC, a conservative advocacy group, Dutson worked as communications director for state House Speaker Rep. Robert Nutting, R-Oakland. He previously worked on the congressional campaigns for New Hampshire Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte and has been involved in communications and strategy for the Maine Republican Party.

Dutson is considered a savvy operative whose expertise would undoubtedly help Summers in his bid to defeat independent Angus King and Democratic candidate Cynthia Dill.

If the Daily Caller report is accurate, it's unclear what Dutson's departure means for MHPC or if he's taking a temporary leave to join the Summers' camp. In 2011 former MHPC CEO Tarren Bragdon took a temporary leave to assist in the transition of Gov. Paul LePage.



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