AUGUSTA, Maine — Two more gubernatorial candidates were expected to qualify for Maine’s taxpayer-funded campaign system by a Monday deadline, putting them on the cusp of getting potentially race-changing lump-sum payments from the state.
Independent Maine State Treasurer Terry Hayes of Buckfield and Democratic lobbyist Betsy Sweet of Hallowell submitted more than 3,200 contributions of $5 to qualify for campaign funding under the Maine Clean Election Act before Monday’s deadline, said Paul Lavin, the assistant director of the Maine Ethics Commission.
Neither candidate has been certified for the program yet, but only formal steps are necessary before qualifying and they’re expected to be the final two of three candidates to receive public money in the 2018 race to replace term-limited Gov. Paul LePage.
Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon Falls, qualified for the program in February. The last remaining Clean Election hopefuls — Biddeford Mayor Donna Dion, a Democrat, and independent Ken Capron of Portland — said Monday that they wouldn’t qualify for the program and planned to continue campaigning as privately financed candidates.
The first Clean Election payments are an immediate boon to campaigns. Primary candidates get an initial payment of $400,000, while independents get $200,000 for the primary season.
Candidates who make it to the general election ballot — as Hayes already has — get $600,000 automatically, and they can submit more contributions to get more money in both the primary and general elections.
“This is a core part of how I want to win this race,” Hayes said. “The next seven months I can spend listening and talking to Mainers without having my hand out.”
Only attorney Adam Cote of Sanford, a Democrat, raised more than $400,000 through Dec. 31, 2017. Cote, Sweet and Dion are among the seven Democrats running for their party’s gubernatorial nomination. Mason is one of four Republicans running to replace LePage.
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