Wednesday July 25, 2012 | 10:02 AM

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has endorsed Republican Charlie Summers in Maine’s U.S. Senate race, the campaign announced this morning.

Summers, a former regional administrator of the Small Business Administration, supports free enterprise over government intervention, Rob Engstrom, the U.S. Chamber’s senior vice president and national political director, said in a written statement. 

“After working in his family’s small business growing up, Summers understands the challenges job creators face,” he said. “Summers’ record in Maine shows that he will advocate for pro-growth policies to produce sustained economic growth, create more jobs, and get our country back on track. We’re proud to support him in his campaign to be Maine’s next U.S. Senator,” Engstrom said.

The national chamber is a major force in congressional races around the country. That probably has more to do with its political fundraising clout than its endorsements, although its says that  236 of the 276 Chamber-endorsed candidates in 2010 were elected.

The chamber was the largest spender nationwide on independent TV advertising on behalf of national candidates in 2010, according to Colby College Professor Anthony Corrado.  It's super PAC is likely one of the big-money committees watching the Maine Senate race for signs that Summers has a shot to win, something that could trigger spending on anti-Angus King television ads in Maine, according to Corrado and other experts. So far, no super PACs have been active in the Maine race.

Polls show Summers is running a distant second to independent Angus King. Also in the race are Democrat Cynthia Dill, and independents Danny Dalton, Andrew Ian Dodge and Steve Woods.

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Open Season is your guide to the 2014 campaign. Our team of political writers has its sights set on Maine’s major elections, from the Blaine House to the U.S. Capitol.

Steve Mistler is covering the 2014 governor's race. He covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.
Steve can be reached at 791-6345 or smistler@pressherald.com.
On Twitter: @stevemistler

Eric Russell is covering Independent Eliot Cutler during the 2014 governor's race. He is a general assignment reporter for the Portland Press Herald.
Eric can be reached at 791-6344 or erussell@pressherald.com
On Twitter: @pphericrussell

Matt Byrne is covering Republican Paul LePage during the 2014 governor's race. He covers Falmouth, Cumberland, North Yarmouth, Yarmouth and Freeport for the Portland Press Herald.
Matt can be reached at 791-6303 or mbyrne@pressherald.com
On Twitter: @mattbyrnePPH

Randy Billings is covering Democrat Mike Michaud during the 2014 governor's race. He covers Portland City Hall for the Portland Press Herald.
Randy can be reached at 791-6346 or rbillings@pressherald.com
On Twitter: @randybillings

Kevin Miller is covering Maine's U.S. Senate race and 1st Congressional District race. He covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald.
Kevin can be reached at 317-6256 or kmiller@pressherald.com
On Twitter: @kevinmillerdc

Michael Shepherd is covering Maine's 2nd Congressional District race. He is a news and State House reporter for the Kennebec Journal.
Michael can be reached at 621-5632 or mshepherd@centralmaine.com
On Twitter: @mikeshepherdME

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