Friday, December 13, 2013
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Charlie Summers, left, answers a question as fellow candidates Scott D’Amboise, William Schneider and Rick Bennett look on during the GOP For ME debate April 13 at the Elks Club in Augusta.
File Photo/Kennebec Journal
File Photo/Kennbec Journal
FAMILY: Married (Ruth), one daughter (Tricia, 27), two sons (Chas, 24, Thomas, 2)
EDUCATION: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
OCCUPATION: Maine secretary of state; former New England regional administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration; served as state director to U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine; commander in the Navy Reserve assigned to the public affairs staff of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey
POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: Two terms in the Maine Senate, 1990-1994 (served on joint standing committees on Legal Affairs and Inland Fisheries and Wildlife); finished second in four-way Republican primary in the 1st Congressional District in 1994; lost to Democrat Tom Allen in 2004 for the 1st District seat and to Democrat Chellie Pingree in 2008; elected Maine secretary of state in 2010.
ON THE ISSUES
• Do you support President Obama’s health care law? No.
• Do you support a balanced budget amendment? Yes.
• Do you support a tax increase for the wealthy? No.
• Would you vote to extend the nation’s debt limit? No.
• Do you support legalizing gay marriage? No.
• Do you support legal access to abortion? Yes, but not with government funds.
• What should Congress be doing to create jobs and improve the economy? “Congress must act to stop government spending and get our national debt under control. I support the Paul Ryan plan to roll back spending to 2008 levels and freeze it there for five years.”
BUSINESS ISSUES: The Maine Economic Research Institute did not issue legislative scorecards during Summers’ two state Senate terms.
ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES: Summers received a 10 percent lifetime score from the Maine Conservation Voters.
LABOR ISSUES: Summers received a 6.25 percent lifetime score from the Maine AFL-CIO.
SUMMERS has received dozens of endorsements from veterans and legislators, including the entire Aroostook County GOP delegation.
Attorney General William Schneider won early access to Snowe's supporter list to help gather petition signatures to get on the primary ballot. Snowe also has donated to Schneider through her campaign committee. She has yet to do the same for Summers.
Regardless, Summers enjoys broad support within the Maine Republican Party. His wife, Ruth Summers, may be just as popular. The current vice chairwoman of the Maine GOP, she campaigned for her husband while he was deployed in Iraq with the Navy Reserve in 2008.
"If I would have stayed in Iraq, I would have gotten elected," he said. "We were doing great until I got back."
Summer is only half-kidding. Ruth is regarded as a rising star in the party. This year she'll attempt to win his old state Senate seat.
Summers held the seat from 1991 to 1994. He was the first Republican to win there. Summers served during the infamous shutdown of state government, an event that he says taught him how to deal with politically unpopular decisions.
That experience came into play last year, when Summers backed a bill that repealed Maine's nearly 40-year-old Election Day voter registration law. A coalition of advocates quickly initiated a citizens initiative to overturn the repeal. They argued that Summers and the Legislature's Republican majority were attempting to limit ballot access with manufactured concerns over voter fraud.
Later in the summer, GOP Chairman Charlie Webster produced a list of college students that he said may have committed fraud. Summers then scheduled a media event announcing that an investigation was forthcoming.
The coalition accused Summers of politicizing his office, a criticism that intensified after he sent a letter to more than 200 students at the University of Maine telling them to get a Maine driver's license and register their vehicles in Maine or relinquish their right to vote.
Zachary Heiden, the legal director for The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, demanded that Summers apologize, saying that the secretary of state had "violated the federal Voting Rights Act and the United States Constitution."
Summers at times appeared an unwilling participant in a battle that ended with voters overwhelmingly voting to overturn the repeal of Election Day registration. However, he said has no reservations about his part in the battle.
"I knew I was going to take some heat for it," he said, adding that the debate helped raise awareness about the "integrity of Maine elections."
The controversy appears to have done little to affect Summers' standing in the Republican party. He remains an approachable public figure. He still carries the loss of his first wife, Debra, who was killed in a car accident in January 1997.
The couple met at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and came to Maine in 1982. Debra was driving home from work one night when her vehicle slid on ice, hit a guardrail and flipped down a steep embankment before landing upside down in a brook. The wreckage was found the next day.
Summers became a single father to Tricia and Chas before he met Ruth while he was in the Navy Reserve. He and Ruth now have a 2-year old son, Thomas.
"When you lose somebody it refocuses you," he said.
Summers said he's now focused on the Senate race. He believes his military experience and his former post as regional administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration distinguish him from the Republican field.
"I don't give up easily," he said.
Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at: email@example.com
This story has clarified to show that U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree spent nearly $2.2 million during the Democratic primary and the general election.