AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine Democrats and Republicans will have their pick this June of a dozen governor’s candidates hoping to represent their parties on the November ballot.
Major party candidates had until 5 p.m. Monday to turn in at least 2,000 signatures from registered voters in order to qualify for the June 8 primary.
Seven Republicans and five Democrats had made the cut by the time Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap walked into the hallway just after 5 p.m. and declared, “All right, that’s it. The office is closed.”
The Republicans who qualified are Steven Abbott of Portland, William Beardsley of Bangor, Matthew Jacobson of Portland, Paul LePage of Waterville, Sen. Peter Mills of Cornville, Les Otten of Bethel and Bruce Poliquin of Georgetown.
The Democrats’ gubernatorial primary ballot will include Patrick McGowan of Hallowell, Sen. Elizabeth “Libby” Mitchell of Vassalboro, John Richardson of Brunswick, Steven Rowe of Lewiston and Rosa Scarcelli of Portland.
Not everyone qualified, however.
Maine’s Green Independent Party will not have a reserved slot on the November ballot after the only declared candidate, Lynne Williams of Bar Harbor, failed to gather enough signatures.
On Monday afternoon, Williams simultaneously announced her withdrawal from the race and indicated she may file a lawsuit against the state challenging the signature-gathering requirements for smaller parties.
Like Republican and Democratic candidates, Williams was required to gather 2,000 signatures from voters registered within her party. But unlike candidates in the two major parties, Williams had a much smaller pool of potential signers in which to fish.
There are roughly 34,500 registered Green Independents in Maine compared with 332,200 Democrats, 271,000 Republicans and 388,600 unenrolled voters, according to the secretary of state’s most recent list of active and inactive voters.
Further complicating the Williams campaign’s efforts, a sizable chunk of the people who registered as Green Independents during the last gubernatorial election were college students or young people who have since graduated, moved or become unreachable.
“Smaller parties are really disadvantaged,” said Williams, an attorney. She plans to argue that the number of required signatures should, instead, be based on the percentage of total voters in a party.
Williams said she also plans to work on behalf of candidates in her party who have filed paperwork in legislative races. The Green Independent Party will maintain its status as an officially recognized party as long as 10,000 registered Greens vote in November.
Two lesser-known Democrats — Donna Dion and Peter Truman — will be dropped from the list of primary contenders after failing to qualify. The nine unenrolled candidates will not face a primary but must gather 4,000 petition signatures by June 1 to qualify for the November ballot.
If all of the Democrats and Republican candidates remain in the race into June, the 2010 gubernatorial primary will be the largest since 1994 when 13 candidates appeared on the ballot.
There were six primary candidates for governor in 2006, four candidates in 2002 and five in 1998.
Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster said he was not surprised to see all of the declared GOP candidates make it onto the ballot, adding that each had “good organizations” behind them.
“I think we have a much stronger team than the Democrats do,” Webster said. “We have people from the business community, and we have people upset with the direction the state has gone.”
Mary Erin Casale, the new executive director of the Maine Democratic Party, said party leaders are also pleased to have such a robust field headed into the primary.
“We’re really excited to have so many qualified candidates,” Casale said Monday evening. “A primary is great for us. It brings in new voters and it brings in new energy.”
While the signature-gathering stage is complete for the major party candidates, four of the gubernatorial hopefuls face another pressing deadline.
Candidates hoping to receive public campaign financing through Maine’s Clean Election Act program have until April 1 to solicit $40,000 in seed money in donations of $100 or less as well as 3,250 donations of $5 to the clean election fund.
So far, Mills is the only candidate to have met the Clean Election Act threshold. The other candidates hoping to receive public campaign financing are Mitchell, McGowan, Richardson and unenrolled candidate Christopher Cambron of Greenbush.
In the 2010 congressional races, incumbent Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree also qualified to be on the Democratic ballot, as did their respective Republican opponents, Jason Levesque and Dean Scontras.