Snowe grows campaign war chest but draws Tea Party ire

C.J. Ciaramella Contributor
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For the first time in her career, Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine will face several GOP primary challengers. While the senator from Maine is out-fundraising those candidates so far, it is expected that her 2012 re-election bid will be up against a well coordinated Tea Party effort.

One of Snowe’s two GOP challengers, Scott D’Amboise, released his second-quarter fundraising numbers today, revealing a motivated — if not wealthy — base with which to fight Snowe.

According to a campaign press release, the D’Amboise campaign received nearly 3,000 donations in the second quarter totaling $117,394.35. D’Amboise’s has not released a final report, but he will have about $90,000 on hand as of the end of the quarter, his campaign said.

Of course, that’s just a drop in the bucket compared to Snowe’s war chest. Snowe raised over $1 million during the second quarter and had more than $2.74 million on hand as of June 30, according to her campaign.

In an interview with the Portland Press Herald, a spokeswoman said the Snowe campaign is “really thrilled with our numbers. We are happy with the support we have from Maine Republicans. We are building a tremendous grassroots organization.”

D’Amboise, a health care technician and owner of a commercial cleaning business, pointed to the number of contributors as evidence of grassroots support — the same grassroots that narrowly elected Tea Party candidate Paul LePage as governor with 38 percent of the vote in a three-way general election.

“Last year’s Governor’s race demonstrated that millions of dollars cannot overcome the desire of the Republican base to unite behind a conservative candidate,” said D’Amboise in a press release.

During the 2010 primary election, LePage only collected $177,000 in individual donations.

Still, the Cook Political Report rates Snowe as “likely” to win reelection. She won her 2006 race with 74 percent of the vote, and she’s never had a primary challenger during any of her previous Senate races or House races.

But the Tea Party could remain an x-factor in the upcoming election. The national Tea Party Express, which coordinated efforts to oust moderate Republicans in 2010, has announced they are targeting Snowe.

“Tea Party Express has said Olympia Snowe is one of our top targets for defeat this cycle,” said Levi Russel, communications director of the Tea Party Express. “I can’t think of another sitting Republican Senator who has been a bigger enemy to the core tea party ideals of fiscal responsibility and economic freedom. We were encouraged by the fundraising figures from D’Amboise, and see this as a great start. We’ll definitely be watching all the candidates and campaigns develop, and looking for the right person to send Snowe home and give Maine the representation they deserve.”

Andrew Ian Dodge, a Tea Party activist and freelance writer, is also running against Snowe.