LEWISTON, Maine - Republican Paul LePage will return for another four years as governor of Maine. Democrat Mike Michaud conceded defeat early Wednesday morning, concluding a hotly-contested three-way race that LePage sought to define as a referendum on welfare reform and fiscal restraint.
LePage says his victory was actually a win for all Mainers who were opposed to accepting a costly Democratic Medicaid expansion plan, higher taxes and unchecked welfare policies. "We have spoken," LePage said. "We have said that 'enough is enough.' "
As polls had indicated, the race for the Blaine House was close, but only between front-runners Lepage and Michaud. Independent Eliot Cutler had always trailed, and wound up in the single digits in unofficial returns.
At his election night headquarters in Lewiston, LePage revisited the account of his early years spent living on the streets of Lewiston and his ultimate chance to obtain an education and achieve success in the business world. He said that while Lewiston was his home, Mainers everywhere have the same opportunities to succeed.
"Home is where every person born in Maine should have the opportunity to carve out their piece of the American dream," LePage said. "I have it. I have the American dream."
Maine as a top priority for the Republican Governors Association led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who made five trips here to raise millions of dollars for LePage. Acknowledging that he wasn't the only GOP governor winning reelection last night, LePage said Republicans have a lot to be thankful for.
"A few minutes ago, I've spoken with Gov. Christie, Gov. Kasich, Gov. Walker - I am telling you, it's been a great day today," LePage said.
LePage held the lead over Michaud for the entire evening. The 2nd District Congressman stayed away from his own election night gathering in Portland until shortly after midnight, when he appeared at the podium to concede the election.
"I want to congratulate Gov. LePage on his reelection and I want to wish him the very best as he leads our state over the next four years," Michaud said.
Michaud campaigned on his reputation as a consensus builder who would work with Republicans and independents to find collaborative solutions to the state's problems. He was critical of what he referred to as LePage's divisive style and embarrassing gaffes on the campaign trail, but he said those perceptions must now be left behind.
"It has been a tough campaign and I know that you are as disappointed as I am," Michaud said. "But now it's time for all of us to put aside our differences. It's time to work together: Democrats, Republicans and independents."
Michaud and other Democrats were encouraged by unofficial election returns that indicated Democrats had retained control of the Maine House. He urged his supporters to work with those lawmakers to achieve his goals for a better was of life for all Mainers.
"This campaign is over, but I'm counting on you to keep fighting for the hard-working men and women who live in this state," Michaud said. "Never give up, keep on fighting to make sure that they're treated fairly, that they have an opportunity here in this state where people can get out of poverty and work their way into the middle class."
Independent Eliot Cutler conceded the race early in the evening and urged whoever emerged as the winner to remember that they would be the governor of all the people of Maine.
"The voters have the final word, they've spoken and we accept their judgment," Cutler said. "I offer my congratulations to whomever wins tonight, whether it's Mike Michaud or Paul LePage."
Michaud said he tried to call LePage to congratulate him on his win, but was unable to connect with him. LePage commended Cutler and said he should be the state's attorney general.