Candidate opts for private funding

Posted Feb. 03, 2010, at 8:57 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A Green Independent candidate in Maine’s gubernatorial race announced Wednesday she would seek private donations instead of public campaign financing, increasing the chances that the state will be able to cover election costs for other candidates who qualify for the money.

Lynne Williams said she decided to forego public funding for her campaign in light of Maine’s budget crisis, although she supports the concept.

“We’ve been agonizing over this for several weeks,” Williams said in a statement.

Although lawmakers are trying to balance a two-year state budget facing a $438 million shortfall, they have already appropriated $7.7 million for candidates in legislative and gubernatorial races who are likely to qualify for taxpayer-financed Clean Election Act campaign funds.

The state Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, which distributes the money, said in a staff report that it remains hopeful the state can cover the costs related to this year’s elections.

The “big variable,” it said, is the cost of financing the campaigns of gubernatorial candidates who qualify for funding. Based on current trends in the races, the fund could end up on Election Day anywhere from breaking even to about $200,000 in the black, according to commission estimates.

Gov. John E. Baldacci cannot seek re-election this year because of term limits.

With Williams going private, eight candidates are seeking public funds. Of those, four — Democrats Patrick McGowan, Elizabeth Mitchell and John Richardson, and Republican Peter Mills — appear most likely to qualify.

The ethics commission says the legislative appropriation is sufficient to carry four candidates through the June 8 primaries and the fund will have a surplus if one Clean Election candidate runs in the general election.

Williams noted that the Legislature has made it harder for candidates to qualify for public funds, increasing the number of $5 and $100 donations candidates must receive to qualify.

Other prominent candidates seeking the governor’s office are Democrats Rosa Scarcelli and Steven Rowe; Republicans Steve Abbott, William Beardsley, Paul LePage, Les Otten and Bruce Poliquin, and independent Elliot Cutler.

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