In Maine, ex-rivals back LePage
WATERVILLE, Maine — In a hand-clasping show of party unity, all six primary rivals of Paul LePage, Maine’s Republican gubernatorial nominee, pledged their support yesterday for the conservative in November’s election.
The former candidates were joined by party leaders and more than 100 supporters in front of the red-brick City Hall in Waterville, where LePage is mayor. In a show of solidarity, they clasped hands and raised them before the cheering supporters.
LePage, whose 38 percent showing in the seven-man race last week stunned political observers as well as LePage himself, faces the Democratic nominee, Elizabeth “Libby’’ Mitchell, and three independents in the general election for the seat being vacated by two-term Governor John E. Baldacci, a Democrat.
“We stand united as a team in one of the most important elections of our lives,’’ said Josh Tardy of Newport, the House GOP leader and one of several party officials who attended the event.
Tardy and others said a shifting tide of public opinion in Maine, where Democrats have held legislative majorities for years and a Republican has not been governor since the mid-’90s, will propel LePage to victory. But they distanced themselves from the Tea Party movement, which LePage courted before the primary.
“It was not a tea party victory,’’ said Charles Webster, state GOP chairman.
He said LePage was swept to victory with the help of Republican voters who were eager to repeal a tax-overhaul law that also was on the June 8 ballot. The law was repealed.
LePage’s compelling personal story of his homeless and disadvantaged youth also won over voters, Webster said.
LePage, general manager of a well-known discount store chain, wasted no time yesterday identifying his priorities if elected. Saying he was borrowing phrasing from President Coolidge, LePage said, “The business in Maine is going to be business.’’
LePage also took a swipe at his Democratic opponent, Mitchell, who has a long résumé of legislative leadership, including House speaker and Senate president. LePage said Mitchell is “trying for a trifecta, and it’s up to the Maine people to stop it.’’
“She has had a quarter of a century of time, and she has driven our state backwards. This election, and this campaign, is going to be about putting Maine in the right directions . . . preparing Maine to accept new jobs for Maine people,’’ LePage said.
“We are going to lower our taxes, we are going to reform our regulatory environment, we are going to bring common sense to Augusta,’’ he said.
One of LePage’s former opponents, state Senator Peter Mills, also focused on business, calling state government “the largest business of Maine’’ and saying, “It needs to appeal to its customers.’’
Les Otten, who finished second behind LePage, said job creation must top the agenda. The other candidates included Steve Abbott, Bill Beardsley, Matt Jacobson, and Bruce Poliquin.
Arden Manning, Democratic Party campaign manager, labeled LePage “a far right-wing candidate’’ whose nomination is dividing Republicans.
Independents who have qualified to appear on the Nov. 3 ballot include Eliot Cutler, a Carter administration official who opened a campaign office yesterday in Auburn, and businessmen Shawn Moody of Gorham and Kevin Scott of Andover.