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Tuesday March 13, 2012 | 09:37 AM

The chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee has committed $5,000 to help each of four major Maine Republicans who might be on the U.S. Senate ballot.

National Republicans are highlighting the aid as part of their charge that national Democrats are shunting aside their own potential U.S. Senate candidates in Maine in favor of independent Angus King.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who chairs the NRSC, is giving from his personal leadership political action committee, not official party committee funds. Cornyn has committed the money to help with the process of gathering signatures and other work needed to try to get on the ballot and get a campaign going.

The four Maine Republicans are: Rick Bennett, the former Maine Senate president who Monday turned in 2,700 petition signatures to get on the Senate ballot; Secretary of State Charlie Summers; Treasurer Bruce Poliquin; and Attorney General William Schneider.

The NRSC also has had staff on the ground in Maine to help with the signature gathering process.

It’s our hope that several strong Republican candidates will have qualified for the ballot by the end of the week, and we look forward to a healthy and spirited primary,” said Brian Walsh, NRSC spokesman.  “Whichever candidate is nominated by Maine Republicans later this year will have our full support.  This stands in marked contrast to the silence from national Democrats who have refused to rally behind, or even assist, any of the Democratic candidates in Maine.”

State and national Democrats have acknowledged that many Democrats may wind up backing King, but say there have been no secret talks or contact with King.

But King won’t say which party he might caucus with if he goes to Washington and has also adamantly denied any back room deal with Democrats.

For its part, the national GOP aid doesn’t seem to extend to another Republican who was in the race as a primary challenger to Sen. Olympia Snowe before she dropped out of the race: Scott D’Amboise, a tea party affiliated health care technician and small business owner from Lisbon Falls.

The deadline for submitting signatures is Thursday.

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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