The Maine Heritage Policy Center’s chief executive officer will soon run the U.S. Senate campaign for Republican Charlie Summers.

Lance Dutson of Portland confirmed Thursday that he will leave the conservative advocacy group effective today and become Summers’ campaign manager.

Dutson said the group will announce his replacement Monday.

Dutson, 39, is considered a savvy operative whose expertise could help Summers in his bid to defeat independent Angus King and Democrat Cynthia Dill in November’s election.

Before becoming CEO of the Maine Heritage Policy Center 11 months ago, Dutson was the communications director for state House Speaker Robert Nutting, R-Oakland.

Dutson previously worked on the congressional campaign for Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire. He also was involved in communications and strategy for the Maine Republican Party during the party’s sweep of the state Legislature and the governor’s office in 2010.

Dutson’s new post as Summers’ campaign manager is a step above his previous campaign involvement. He said the importance and the profile of the Senate race prompted him to leave the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a nonprofit group that cannot expressly advocate for candidates.

“It’s very important to make sure that the Republicans hold this Senate seat,” he said. “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 to jump right into the fight.”

Dutson quickly ascended in the ranks of the Maine Republican Party after starting his political career as a conservative blogger.

“Lance is an outstanding leader with a sharp political mind,” Summers said in a statement. “His skills and experience will be an incredible asset to my campaign for U.S. Senate. This will be a challenging race, and Lance will help lead us to victory in November.”

State House Writer Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at:

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