AUGUSTA — With nine months to go before Maine voters elect a new governor, the race to replace incumbent Paul LePage is already crowded with a diverse field of candidates.
Twenty-four candidates have filed paperwork with the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices to run for governor in 2018. Of those declared, 13 are running as Democrats, five as Republicans, one as a member of the Maine Green Independent Party and five as unenrolled independents.
The field is split between candidates who have political experience in Maine and those pursuing their first elected position.
Six candidates are running who currently hold either elected or appointed office: Maine Senate President Michael Thibodeau (R-Waldo County); Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, a Democrat; Sen. Mark Dion (D-Cumberland County); House Minority Leader Rep. Kenneth Fredette (R-Newport); Maine State Treasurer Terry Hayes, an independent; and Senate Majority Leader Garrett Paul Mason (R-Androscoggin County).
Former elected officials running for governor also include Republican Mary Mayhew, a former Health and Human Services commissioner; Democrats Mark Eves, a former state representative and speaker of the House; Sean Faircloth, a former Bangor mayor and state senator; Donna Dion, a former Biddeford mayor; Diane Russell, a former state representative from Portland; James Boyle, a former state senator from Gorham; and independent John Jenkins, a former state senator and mayor of Lewiston and then Auburn.
Candidates seeking their first elected statewide position include Democrats Adam Cote, Betsy Sweet, Anthony Crocitto, Steve DeAngelis, Patrick Eisenhart and Martin Vachon; Republican Shawn Moody; independents Ethan Alcorn, Kenneth Capron and Alan Caron; and Green Independent Party candidate Elizabeth Marsano.
While neither has held statewide office, both Cote and Moody lost high-profile races the last time they ran for public office. In 2008, Cote lost the Democratic primary to Chellie Pingree to represent Maine’s First Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, and Moody lost his independent bid for governor in 2010.
An effective way to assess the mid-winter status of these campaigns is to look at the money raised thus far for each.
Cote, Moody, Caron and Mills are the only four candidates to report cash balance totals over $100,000.
In reporting released earlier this month from the last six months of 2017, Cote, a lawyer, leads the field with a cash-on-hand total of $339,856. Cote, who raised more than $500,000 over the course of last year, has a considerable cash lead over Moody ($260,117), Caron ($242,393) and Mills ($230,615).
Mayhew, from South China, has the next highest cash-on-hand total with $94,670. Other candidates with $50,000 to $100,000 in their campaign account are Democrat James Boyle ($74,355) and Republican Mike Thibodeau ($58,898).
Former Speaker of the House Eves (D-North Berwick) is next with a cash balance of $39,113. He’s followed by Mark Dion ($11,891), Sweet ($11,628), Russell ($5,071), DeAngelis ($4,801), Hayes ($3,929), Mason ($2,069) and Marsano ($1,088).
All of the other candidates had a cash balance below $1,000.
Another factor when sorting through a field of candidates this large is whether gubernatorial hopefuls have decided to run as Clean Election candidates. Those running as Clean Election candidates must collect 3,200 qualifying contributions of $5 apiece by April 20 in order to qualify for public financing.
Nine candidates are running as Clean Election candidates this year: Sweet, DeAngelis, Hayes, Mason, Marsano, Faircloth, Capron, Donna Dion and Alcorn.
Anyone running for governor with a party affiliation must submit nomination petitions to the Maine Secretary of State’s Office by March 15, the primary filing date. Primary elections for party-affiliated candidates are Tuesday, June 12. General Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6.
Ellsworth American reporter Kate Cough also is a correspondent for Pine Tree Watch, which is the news organization that produced this report. Pine Tree Watch is a nonpartisan, nonprofit investigative news service focused on Maine state government and institutions. Web: www.pinetreewatch.org.