Two former staffers for U.S. Sen. Susan Collins have launched a group aimed to breathe new life into a moderate, stately Republican tradition that they say has been sidelined in recent years by the more hard-line, confrontational political style embodied by Gov. Paul LePage.

The group is called Get Right Maine, and it’s largely a two-man operation, for now. Its founders are Lance Dutson and Bobby Reynolds, self-described lifelong Republicans with experience at all levels of party politics, but most notably with Collins.

Reynolds was Collins’ political director on her two most recent campaigns, and ran her state offices from 2008 to 2014. Dutson ran the digital side of the senator’s 2008 campaign, and was her communications director during the 2014 race.

Now, the duo is turning their attention toward Augusta. The group’s tagline is “Relevance. Reason. Respect.”

“The Republican Party in Maine has a rich tradition of not only punching above our weight with the people we send to Washington, but Republicans in Maine have a reputation for being statesmen and stateswomen,” Dutson said in an interview. “I think there’s a risk right now that the general population doesn’t consider the Maine GOP to be in that same tradition right now.”

Dutson said that while the party has had big electoral victories in recent cycles, it has struggled to govern.

“It’s a different ballgame now that Republicans know we can win and be competitive; It requires a much longer term perspective,” he said. “With a lot of what’s going on in Augusta, we’re seeing an all-or-nothing attitude about things. Republicans would serve themselves better to take a breath and think more than one election cycle ahead.”

The group points to Margaret Chase Smith, Bill Cohen, Jock McKernan, Olympia Snowe and, yes, Collins, as luminaries of the party. All are or were moderates with an eye toward bipartisanship.

And while Dutson said the group is not specifically aimed at LePage, its first foray into politics was a release sent to media and lawmakers Wednesday night, in which the group accused LePage of acting hypocritically in attempting to hold up 71 bills.

Both chambers of the Legislature passed orders on June 30 to adjourn “until the call” of the Senate president and House speaker. LePage says such an order is preventing him from sending the 71 bills back to their respective chambers.

Get Right Maine, however, shows in its release that during the 125th Legislature, in 2012, LePage returned two bills to lawmakers despite adjourning “until the call.”

The group currently has a website and is signing people up for an email list. Dutson said Thursday that the group would decide shortly whether to incorporate as a political action committee or some other kind of nonprofit. For now, he said, it will focus on information and messaging.

“Our effort is to give voice to the silent majority of Maine Republicans whose voice is drowned out by all the chaos in Augusta,” he said. 


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