Race to lead Maine gets crowded
20 candidates run for governor
AUGUSTA, Maine — It is hard to stand out when you are in a pack of candidates running for governor.
What it really comes down to at this stage is being able to identify supporters, corral them, and get them to vote.
“Organization is the number one determinate of who’s going to get the nomination,’’ said Tony Payne, a former Republican congressional hopeful who now heads the Alliance for Maine’s Future.
The race to succeed Governor John Baldacci, a Democrat completing his second term, features seven Republicans, four Democrats, and nine nonparty independents. But the emphasis now is on the primary races in which the two major parties will choose their nominees for the Nov. 2 general election.
“I haven’t seen such an open year since pre-1994. Nobody has it clinched,’’ said Dennis Bailey, who’s working for Rosa Scarcelli, a Democratic candidate, and helped independent Angus King win the Blaine House election 16 years ago.
The competition for supporters is intense, given the small anticipated turnout; 20 percent of eligible voters is a good turnout in primaries. Campaigns are scouring voter registration lists to find out who is likely to vote so they can be contacted. They also are using social networking tools such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube as never before to round up volunteers and reach out to potential supporters.
Identifying where votes are “is a huge part of a primary election. It always has been, always will be,’’ said Jim Mitchell, who in 1994 lost in a congressional primary to Baldacci and is now supporting Pat McGowan for governor.
That axiom takes on more meaning when you look at the numbers, said Mitchell.
In the more crowded Republican race, for example, a candidate could win with 13,500 votes given the likely turnout.
Geography plays a role. In the Democratic race, John Richardson’s decision to drop out last week limits the competitors in southern Maine’s Cumberland County area to Scarcelli and Steve Rowe, who are both from Portland. Elizabeth “Libby’’ Mitchell, the state Senate president from Vassalboro, has close ties to state workers, who are concentrated in central Maine.
The fourth Democrat, McGowan, emphasizes his ties to northern Maine by pointing to work he has done to open land to outdoor sports.
Among the Republicans, Steve Abbott is trying to forge a bond with the hunting-fishing crowd. He also walks into the campaign with ties to a broad base of potential supporters from his years as US Senator Susan M. Collins’s chief of staff.
Peter Mills benefits from the network he built in his 2006 run for governor.
Matt Jacobson, chief executive of Maine and Company, is seen as making a bid to middle-age entrepreneurial types.
Waterville’s mayor, Paul LePage, has made a campaign presence at Tea Party movement gatherings, emphasizing his bid for conservative votes.
LePage’s ability to draw conservative votes detracts from candidate Bill Beardsley’s base of social conservatives. But Beardsley, a former Husson College president, may get a bump by being the lone GOP candidate living in the Bangor-Ellsworth area.
Bruce Poliquin has had access to personal funds, giving him the ability to introduce himself to voters through paid television advertising.