Maine Candidates For Governor Reveal Financial Support, First Hints Of Viability

Jan 17, 2018

More than two-dozen candidates vying to replace Gov. Paul LePage provided a glimpse at their financial support Tuesday as they hit a key deadline to file a six-month review of their campaign donations and expenses with the Maine Ethics Commission.

The 13 Democratic contenders were led by Sanford attorney and veteran Adam Cote, Attorney General Janet Mills and former House Speaker Mark Eves. Republicans were led by businessman Shawn Moody, former Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew and Senate President Mike Thibodeau.

State Treasurer Terry Hayes and Freeport entrepreneur Alan Caron led the independents.

The campaign finance deadline was the first public disclosure for most of the 25 candidates, including several potential front-runners. The reports reveal a variety of contribution sources, including several candidates’ own bank accounts, at least in the early stages of their campaigns.

Such self-funding was expected for some of the candidates, particularly those who entered the race late last year. The 2018 gubernatorial field is crowded, and privately funded candidates are attempting to demonstrate their viability to activists and potential donors.

The reports could bolster candidates seeking separation from the crowded field, while low financial support — if sustained — could prompt some candidates to eventually withdraw.

Candidates running under the Maine Clean Election Act are also under the gun to collect the 3,200 $5 donations they need to qualify for public financing.

Cote, who finished a surprise second in the 2007 Democratic primary for the 1st Congressional District, entered the race early last year and posted strong financial support, topping the entire gubernatorial field for 2017 with over $546,000, including over $296,000 for the second half of the year.

Cote co-founded Thermal Energy Storage of Maine. He tapped a broad network of commercial sources and small-dollar contributions from former lawmakers, veterans and party activists.

Mills, whose public disputes with LePage have dominated headlines since she returned to the attorney general post in 2012, reported over $350,000 in contributions — the most of any other gubernatorial candidate over the last six months of 2017.

Of the five Republican candidates, Moody posted the biggest haul from the last six months of 2017, showing $300,000 in donations — half of which was from himself. Moody, the owner of Moody’s Collision Centers, ran as independent in 2010, finishing fifth in a six-way race.

Mayhew reported nearly $120,000 for the six-month period. Mayhew, an early entrant in the race, has reported nearly $200,000 for all of last year, with $94,000 cash on hand.

Thibodeau, who entered the race two months ago, reported over $100,000 in donations and nearly $70,000 cash on hand.

Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon Falls, who is running as a publicly financed candidate, reported nearly $32,000 in contributions from over 400 donors.

House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport, reported just over $14,000 in donations. 

Eves, a family therapist who left the Legislature in 2016 following several high-profile clashes with LePage, reported over $160,000 in contributions, but just $40,000 cash on hand.

Augusta lobbyist Betsy Sweet, who is running as a publicly financed candidate, brought in over $88,000 from nearly 1,300 donors. Sweet says she’s well on her way to gathering the $5 contributions she needs to qualify for public funding.

Other Democratic candidates include former state Sen. Jim Boyle of Gorham, who raised $134,000, including an $80,000 loan from himself. Portland Democratic state Sen. Mark Dion reported over $14,000 in contributions, while former state Rep. Diane Russell had not yet filed early Tuesday evening. Former Democratic Representative Diane Russell reported nearly $50,000. 

So far, the field of independent candidates is set at five.

Freeport resident Alan Caron, an entrepreneur perhaps best known for research and proposals to revitalize Maine’s economy, said in a press statement that he had received $280,000 in contributions, including $250,000 from himself.

Independent state Treasurer Terry Hayes, among the nine candidates seeking public financing, reported over $41,000 for 2017. In a statement, Hayes said her campaign is poised to qualify for over $2 million in public financing.

Other candidates attempting to qualify for public financing, include  Steven DeAngelis, a Democrat who reported $9,485 in contributions; Sean Faircloth, a Democrat, posted $640. Elizabeth Marsano, a Green Independent, posted $1,145.

Ethan Weld Alcorn, an independent, Kenneth Capron, an independent and Donna Jane Dion, a Democrat, did not post finance reports by the midnight deadline.

Reports filed with the Ethics Commission don’t show how far Clean Elections candidates are in meeting the $5-donation threshold.

This story will be updated.

This story was originally published Jan. 16, 2018 at 8:05 p.m. ET.