LePage makes Republican primary endorsements

Gov. Paul LePage has weighed into two legislative primaries, endorsing Republican representatives who hope to join the state Senate and attracting the criticism of some Tea Party supporters in the process.

LePage recently recorded phone calls in support of Rep. Andre Cushing of Hampden, the assistant House Republican leader, and Rep. David Burns of Whiting.

Cushing is hoping to win the Senate seat currently held by Debra Plowman, the assistant Senate majority leader, who is termed out and running in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate. Burns is running for the seat held by Senate President Kevin Raye, who is running for the Republican nod in the U.S. House race for Maine’s Second Congressional District.

Both legislators are engaged in primary contests against candidates supported by the operators of a political action committee called the Defense of Liberty PAC.

The Maine Refounders website on Sunday posted a letter from Eric Brakey and David Boyer, who describe themselves as “Republican Liberty Activists,” that suggests that LePage is abandoning a Tea Party supporter who helped to get him elected and is instead backing an establishment candidate. As Maine Goes, the online conservative forum, also has the letter.

“Could it be that this is part of the “good ole’ boy” network rearing its ugly head again?” the letter asks.

“It is widely known that LePage may not have succeeded in Washington County without Kathleen Caso’s steadfast efforts on his behalf,” the letter reads. Caso, of Calais, is Burns’ opponent in that Senate primary. James Emerson of Corinna is Cushing’s opponent.

The Defense of Liberty PAC on June 9 filed an independent expenditure report with the Maine Ethics Commission indicating it had purchased nearly $1,800 in mailing services on Caso’s behalf.

LePage political adviser Brent Littlefield said both Cushing and Burns asked LePage for his endorsement. The calls LePage recorded in their support, Littlefield said, highlighted Cushing and Burns’ support for various elements of the governor’s agenda.

LePage’s endorsements in these two legislative races come less than two weeks after the governor issued a statement clarifying he did not plan to endorse a candidate in the six-way Republican Senate primary. That statement followed a campaign mailing from State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin that featured pictures of the two men and called them “two conservatives fighting for Maine’s future.”

Update: This post was updated at 2:49 p.m. to correct Andre Cushing’s title in House leadership.