ORONO, Maine — Steve Abbott, the longtime top adviser to Sen. Susan Collins, formally announced his entrance into Maine’s gubernatorial race Tuesday during an enthusiastic rally to a hometown crowd.
Abbott, who grew up in Orono, will join a field of seven other Republicans who plan to vie for the GOP nomination during this June’s primary. During campaign stops in Portland, Orono and Presque Isle, Abbott said Maine needs to restructure its entire economy by leveraging its existing assets in new ways.
As part of that effort, Abbott announced the creation of an initiative called “Maine Vision 2020” to present a long-term plan to grow Maine’s economy in time for the state’s bicentennial in one decade. He said the state should honor its economic past but not try to re-create it.
“If we’re really going to put Maine on a track to prosperity, we need our government to look beyond a two-year election cycle,” Abbott told several hundred supporters crammed into an Orono hotel conference room. “We need to be willing to take steps that might not pay off right away but that will restructure our economy for the future.”
Abbott also pledged, if elected, to conduct an audit of every department within state government in order to identify efficiencies as well as programs that could be improved or discontinued. And he said he would work toward a stronger line-item veto for the governor’s office.
“Too often, we create a program and then remain committed to it in perpetuity,” he said. “Political leaders seem afraid to make a mistake. We need to give our constituents more credit than that.”
For the past 12 years, Abbott has worked as chief of staff for Collins and also ran her re-election campaigns. After graduating from Orono High School, Abbott attended Harvard University where he played football and was named team captain on the 1984 team.
He earned his law degree from the University of Maine School of Law. Before joining Collins’ staff in 1997, Abbott practiced law at Pierce Atwood and also worked for a time for Gov. John McKernan and Sen. Olympia Snowe.
Abbott is competing for the Republican nomination against several prominent businessmen and veteran politicians. Asked about his likely primary rivals, Abbott said he is looking forward to having the chance to discuss his positions in what he described as a “strong Republican field.”
Abbott said he believes his knowledge of the state and his commitment to creating a long-term economic plan for the state would help distinguish his campaign.
Several business and political leaders appeared alongside Abbott during his campaign announcement, including Cianbro Corp. Chairman Peter Vigue and House Minority Leader Josh Tardy, R-Newport.
Vigue, who some had urged to run for governor, endorsed Abbott on Tuesday and will head up the candidate’s “Maine Vision 2020” initiative.