9 hopefuls for top job in Maine

Posted June 29, 2009, at 10:16 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The list of possible contenders in the 2010 governor’s race continues to grow longer as Democrats, Republicans, Greens and independent candidates begin positioning themselves to vie for the first open seat in the Blaine House in eight years.

Nine candidates already have registered with the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices as candidates for the coming gubernatorial election. There’s also a lengthy list of others reportedly considering launching bids to succeed Democratic Gov. John Baldacci.

Baldacci, after serving two terms, is barred by the state Constitution from seeking re-election.

The latest person to toss his political hat at least partway into the ring is Les Otten, the former owner of Sunday River Ski Resort and former vice chairman of the Boston Red Sox whose latest business venture is in wood pellets and furnaces.

Otten announced Monday the formation of an exploratory committee to run on the Republican ticket.

“I think I’m uniquely qualified to give Maine some vision,” Otten said in a telephone interview. “I have held every job in small business, from cleaning bathrooms to welding broken pipes to sitting in the board room.”

If Otten formally enters the race, he will join two other Republicans who have registered with the ethics commission — Matthew Jacobson of Cumberland and Bruce Poliquin of Georgetown — as well as a number of yet-to-announce candidates.

One GOP lawmaker who says he’s considering a run is Sen. Peter Mills, the Skowhegan attorney who ran in the Republican primary in 2006. Mills said Monday that he has been working “quite assiduously” since the Legislature’s adjournment earlier this month to line up everything before announcing.

“I’m definitely interested and I’m working on putting a campaign together,” Mills said.

Other names often mentioned as possible GOP candidates include House minority leader Rep. Josh Tardy of Newport and Senate minority leader Sen. Kevin Raye of Perry.

Only one Democrat has registered as a candidate so far, and that is former Attorney General Steven Rowe of Portland. While some party faithful see Rowe as the most likely ticket holder, a significant number of other Democrats apparently are eyeing a run.

Rep. Dawn Hill, D-York, announced last week that she was also setting up an exploratory committee.

The following Democrats, among others, have also been mentioned as potential candidates: John Richardson, the state’s economic development commissioner, Sen. Bill Diamond from Windham, who is co-chairman of the Legislature’s budget-writing committee; state conservation commissioner Patrick McGowan and former House Speaker Glenn Cummings of Portland.

Lynne Williams, a Bar Harbor lawyer and the chairwoman of the Maine Green Independent Party, also has filed as a Green candidate. Williams said Monday that her campaign is going well and that she is busy setting up local county campaign committees.

Patrick Quinlan of Gorham also has filed as a Green candidate.

The following people have filed with the ethics commission as unenrolled candidates for the 2010 gubernatorial race: Samme Bailey of Gorham; Augustus Edgerton of Bangor; Alex Hammer of Bangor; and John Whitcomb of Sidney.

Others who have said they’re considering a run are Eliot Cutler, a Bangor native and lawyer who now lives in Cape Elizabeth, and Rosa Scarcelli, the owner of a property management firm in Portland.

The long and growing list of candidates doesn’t surprise Jim Melcher, an associate professor of political science at the University of Maine Farmington. That’s because this will be the first race since 2002 without an incumbent.

“It’s an open seat and people have been waiting to run for an open seat for a while, especially among the Democrats,” Melcher said. “It’s much easier to win in an open-seat election than beat an incumbent, even when the incumbent is not overwhelmingly popular.”

Right now, Melcher described the Republican race as largely up in the air but he said that could change if and when higher-profile candidates, such as Mills or Tardy, enter the fray.

Mainers are also known to stray across party boundaries or vote for independent candidates. For instance, Melcher pointed out that unenrolled candidate Barbara Merrill received more than 20 percent of the vote in the 2006 election.

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