Publication Date: November 9, 1994 Edition: c5
BANGOR — At 2:45 a.m. today, the outcome of Maine’s gubernatorial election was too close to call as independent candidate Angus King continued to lead Democratic nominee Joseph E. Brennan by barely more than 1 percentage point.
For most of the evening Republican nominee Susan M. Collins and independent Jonathan Carter trailed behind the two leaders who slugged it out in a neck-and-neck race for the Blaine House.
Shortly before midnight, Collins conceded to the two front-runners and complimented both on a hard-fought campaign. Complimenting her staff and supporters for their hard work, the GOP nominee, who often wore signature red suits, injected a little humor into her concession speech.
“At the outset of our campaign, we had little but enthusiasm and a closet full of red dresses,” she said.
Brennan, seeking a third term as governor, remained secluded in his motel suite, promising to make an 11 a.m. announcement on the election’s results.
With 82 percent of Maine’s 664 precincts reported in at the Bangor Daily News-NewsCenter (Channel 2 in Bangor, Channel 6 in Portland) election headquarters, King was leading Brennan by about 4,000 votes or 35.5 percent of the vote. Brennan followed with 34.4 percent and Collins remained entrenched in third place with 23.5 percent. Carter never broke out of single digits throughout the evening and by 2:30 a.m. had garnered 6.5 percent of the vote.
While Collins was leading her opponents in many northern cities and towns, King showed strength in central and coastal Maine. In Auburn, King outpaced Brennan by 1,000 votes and divided the majority of the Lewiston vote, receiving 5,898 votes to Brennan’s 5,792.
Initial reports seemed to confirm the Secretary of State’s Office’s prediction of a heavy turnout that would keep pace with the 1990 total of 57 percent of Maine’s 929,000 voters.
In most newsrooms, the relentless flow of faxed news releases from the candidates had receded from a torrent to a dribble. Brennan and his supporters were waiting out the returns at the Holiday Inn in Portland. The Collins camp was walled up at the Embassy Suites in Portland while Carter and his Green Party followers were entrenched at their headquarters in the same city. King and his supporters were gathered at the Atrium Hotel in his hometown of Brunswick to wait out the evening.
The war of words that has defined the debate between Brennan and King for the past two weeks has ended as each scrutinized the returns to see if a series of negative campaign ads had drawn blood. Collins, trailed in the polls for much of the race, had hoped for a last-minute surge at the polls to carry her from behind to victory. Carter’s consistent 5.8 percent showing seemed to guarantee that the Maine Greens would be recognized as a legitimate third political party in the state.
The 1994 gubernatorial campaign may be remembered more for its style than substance. With Maine’s finances and revenue projections charting a modest recovery after plummeting in the 1990 recession, there was little room for creativity concerning how the state’s meager resources would be spent. Instead the gubernatorial hopefuls concentrated their messages on reducing the state’s burdensome tax code in an effort to cultivate a more productive local economy.
Brennan, a former two-term governor, congressman and lawyer from Portland, pledged to oppose any increase in the sales tax or expanding the sales tax to items now exempted. Collins, a longtime staffer to Sen. William Cohen and a former member of Gov. John R. McKernan’s Cabinet, offered a plan to cap state spending at the rate of inflation to generate a surplus that would be used to lower the sales tax back to 5 percent. King, a lawyer, public affairs talk-show host and energy conservation consultant, also opposed any increase to the sales tax and vigorously encouraged the elimination of property tax on business equipment.
Carter, a former university science instructor, stood apart from his opponents on the subject of raising taxes. The Lexington Township resident wanted to expand the sales tax to amusements and all nonmedical services. Pursuing a “tax equity” message, Carter pledged to raise the income tax to 10 percent for those earning $100,000 or more and lower the amount of income tax paid by Maine’s poor.
In addition to building a better economy by easing the tax burden, the candidates sought to make Maine a better place to do business. Brennan would create a $20 million revolving loan fund through bonding to provide job training. Carter promised a similar amount through bonding that would provide seed capital to businesses and marketing funds. Collins would establish a small-business investment company to privide risk capital to new businesses and eliminate the state Department of Environmental Protection from the permitting process when air, water, emissions or wetlands are not involved. King pushed the creation of a long-term comprehensive plan to promote new businesses with an emphasis on those relying on the state’s natural reosurces. He also promoted greater development of Maine’s seaports — including development of the Sears Island project — to increase the state’s access to world markets.
Maine voters watched the campaign turn increasingly negative during the final weeks as King and Brennan duked it out over military service and business dealings. Collins was forced to carry the cross of her own party after one segment abandoned her shortly after the primary when it became convinced she could not win. Another faction of right-leaning GOP members launched a high-profile protest of Collins for her pro-choice position on abortion and support of a proposed state gay rights bill — two issues on which all four candidates agreed.
The dispute that embroiled King and Brennan throughout the last days of the campaign went back to the fruits of the $20 million sale of King’s energy company that netted the candidate an $8 million profit. Not only did Brennan attempt to plant doubt in voters’ minds regarding the ethics of the sale — that he said was earned at the expense of power company ratepayers — he also charged that King was trying to buy the election by using nearly $1 million of his own money to finance his campaign.
The sum formed the bulk of King’s war chest which by Nov. 2 had grown to $1.57 million compared to Brennan’s $1.25 million. Shunned by big-money GOP contributors such as Robert A.G. Monks, who threw his support behind King, Collins managed to raise $549,000 by Nov. 2 while Carter waged a low-budget race with a little less than $23,000.
The abundance of financial clout gave King a commanding advantage in the crucial area of television advertising. In total, King spent more than $350,000 on air time.