AUGUSTA – Secretary of State Matt Dunlap has appointed a new small-business advocate.

Dunlap, a Democrat, named Peggy Schaffer to the position. Schaffer, who served as the legislative liaison for the Department of Economic and Community Development, will replace Jay Martin. Martin had been selected by the previous secretary of state, Republican Charlie Summers.

Summers created the position of small-business advocate. The advocate serves at the pleasure of the secretary of state, who is elected by the Legislature.

House Republicans criticized Dunlap’s decision, saying Schaffer had “no business experience.”

Rep. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough, said in a written statement that Dunlap’s pick appeared to be “political patronage or favoritism.”

The Maine Republican Party also balked at the choice of Schaffer, citing critical comments she had made from her Twitter account about Gov. Paul LePage and a Republican lawmaker.

“I’m being criticized by the Maine Republican Party, what a surprise,” Dunlap said.

He said he wasn’t concerned about Schaffer’s previous statements about the governor or other Republicans. Schaffer had the right to make those comments, but she’ll have to be less partisan now, Dunlap said.

“She works for me now and this office is committed to doing its work in a nonpartisan way,” he said.

Dunlap said Schaffer brought a “wealth of experience in state government and economic development” to the position.

“This experience makes her a perfect choice to assist small businesses in Maine with any regulatory issues they have in dealing with state agencies,” he said.

Schaffer served as the chief of staff for Senate President Libby Mitchell in the 124th Legislature and in the Senate Democratic Office for the 123rd Legislature. Schaffer worked for the Department of Economic and Community Development for eight years.

Dunlap credited her with developing several programs, including the Maine Rural Development Authority, Maine Microenterprise Initiative, and the Maine Technology Incubator program. She also was involved with programs at the Maine Technology Institute, the Maine Comprehensive Research & Development Evaluation and the Maine Technology Asset Fund.

Schaffer has a bachelor’s of science degree in public administration from the University of Maine-Augusta, and an MBA from Thomas College in Waterville.

Dunlap, in his statement, praised Martin for his work.

State House Bureau Writer Steve Mistler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:

[email protected]