State Treasurer Terry Hayes has had a winding career leading to her disaffection with party politics.
Before the unenrolled gubernatorial candidate funneled $25,000 to Democrats to help them win back a House majority in 2012, she was a Republican. Her first political contributions went to Republican Susan Collins’ bid for governor against independent Angus King. She twice cast a ballot for Reform Party candidate Ross Perot.
In 2004, she enrolled as a Democrat, and by the fall of 2012 she was the party’s assistant minority leader in the House and vying for the party’s top leadership spot of speaker. Campaigning that year involved joining an intense fundraising push to restore the party to a majority it had enjoyed for about four decades before LePage and Republicans swept the State House in 2010.
Hayes raised $46,000, mostly from corporations and special interest groups. She said she did not enjoy raising that cash, or what happened next.
“I had a PAC for one election cycle (2012) and I experienced fundraising on steroids,” she wrote in an email. “I didn’t like it. My caucus was inconsistent regarding whose money it would accept and why.”
Just before the election, Hayes said she brought House leaders $1,500 from the pro-charter school and education reform group StudentsFirst, which generally backs Republicans. The next day, Hayes said, party leaders held a conference call and decided to reject the money.
Hayes said party leaders told her the teachers’ union, the Maine Education Association, objected to the contribution.
“I didn’t think it was the MEA’s decision to make,” Hayes said, “and we didn’t turn down anyone else’s money.”
Hayes said she didn’t fault the MEA for making its wishes known. She faulted her fellow party leaders for their response and a decision based on the wishes of an “ally.”
“[Interest groups] should ask for whatever they want, but it’s the responsibility of the elected to say no,” Hayes said. “And we didn’t say no that time.”
She accepted the contribution from the pro-charter school organization despite previously voting against the 2011 law allowing charter schools in Maine.
At first, she said, the situation renewed her resolve to win the party’s top leadership post and make changes. Looking back, she said, the events should have told her she was not going to win her bid for leadership.
She said her view of politicking didn’t improve as a rank-and-file member of the restored majority.
“We campaigned with dogged determination right up to Election Day, and then we continued to campaign throughout the legislative sessions, never transitioning to governing,” Hayes said. “Why run so hard for the opportunity to govern and then not do it?”
During that session, she said she “watched both parties behave in ways that indicated poor boundaries with their allies.”
At the end of the session, in 2014, she unenrolled and shut down her PAC before her election by the Legislature as the state’s first independent state treasurer.
From 2014 through 2016, she personally gave $500 to independent Eliot Cutler’s bid for governor and $350 to the political action committee supporting ranked-choice voting.
In her current run for governor, she’s qualified for $200,000 in taxpayer dollars through the Maine Clean Elections Act. Without that system, she said she would likely have stayed out of the race, to avoid “dialing for dollars.”
Independent Alan Caron has given 100 times more this year than all of his previous political giving combined.
The Freeport unenrolled candidate for governor had given exclusively to Democrats and campaigns to support gay marriage and Maine’s publicly financed elections program before putting $175,000 into his own campaign last fall, mostly in the form of loans. His wife, Kristina Egan, loaned the campaign another $75,000, according to campaign filings.
“As to why we have contributed so much, it is worth remembering that when Angus King ran for governor in 1994, two-thirds of his funding came from himself,” Caron wrote in an email. “[Democrat Joseph] Brennan even ran ads attacking him for it. Nobody cared. It’s a hard route to take, running as an independent, with no party infrastructure in place. Everything has to be built from scratch.”
The loans give Caron early money to use that he can recoup later through campaign fundraising.
While his history of giving leans toward the left, Caron unenrolled as a Democrat last year.
“I agree with much of what Democrats say on equal rights and the environment, but I’m also pro-growth and for a leaner, smarter government, which are ideas often associated with Republicans,” Caron wrote in an email. “At this point in my life, I’ve concluded that neither party represents my views and neither party seems to be able to get much done.”
Besides his current campaign, Caron gave the largest of his personal contributions to the 2002 congressional campaign of former Bangor city councilor Sean Faircloth, who was also briefly a Democratic candidate for governor in 2018. Caron gave the second highest amount of his personal money to the gubernatorial campaign of another Bangor Democrat, John Baldacci.
Caron said he did not recall the Baldacci contributions but he “suspect[s] that those payments are for events sponsored by the party.”
John Jenkins, a former state senator and mayor of both Lewiston and Auburn, has supported one candidate in the past: John Jenkins.
But that was with a $300 contribution, helping to fuel his 2002 campaign for governor.
State and federal contribution records don’t include certain small donations. At the state level, campaigns are only required to name donors who gave $50 or more in any reporting period.
But Jenkins said he puts that kind of tally aside for his campaign.
“The traditional campaigning process is often measured by equating money collected, money spent, and perceived voter support,” Jenkins wrote. “We have been quite different by appealing directly to voter issues and once in office, honoring our word by effectively addressing these matters.”
Jenkins has amassed outside support before, winning a write-in campaign to serve as mayor of Auburn in 2007.
Jenkins, a self-described “fiscal conservative,” said that he does plan to contribute his own funds toward his current run for governor.
“I have and will continue to spend my limited savings from being a high school teacher and public speaker,” Jenkins said. “We will also accept modest contributions from everyday Mainers who want a proven leadership choice.”
Ken Capron, a former Republican House candidate in Portland, has put $128 into his past shots at the Maine House of Representatives.
“I don’t give a lot to political campaigns, nor do I expect a lot for my political campaign,” Capron said. “Sometimes, when you take donations, you end up owing people — or they think you do — and I’m not going to subject myself to that.”
Capron also had a winding road away from the party system. He was a Democrat, then a Republican, then a man without a party.
Until 2004, he said, he was a registered Democrat. Budgets proposed and passed during Democratic Gov. John Baldacci’s tenure left him unsatisfied, so he switched to what he believed was a more fiscally responsible party.
After Gov. Paul LePage’s election, he said, he unenrolled, dissatisfied with the politics of the Tea Party movement.
Now, he’s hopeful that his gubernatorial run can be part of a push away from party politics.
“I think non-party candidates should have a support system,” Capron said.
Within the next two years, he said, he’d like to put together a convention for such third-party or “non-party” candidates.
Capron had sought clean elections financing but did not qualify, but he said he doesn’t expect to spend much on his current race.
“I’m not a wealthy person to begin with,” Capron said. “And I like proving the point that things can be done on the cheap.”
Maine Focus is a journalism and community engagement initiative at the Bangor Daily News. Questions? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify details of loans made to Alan Caron’s campaign by the candidate and his wife.