BANGOR, Maine — The race to be Maine governor came to Bangor Tuesday with Democrat G. Steven Rowe opening his first campaign office and Republican Peter Mills gathering with supporters at a downtown pub.
With 27 hopefuls registered with the state’s ethics commission, both Mills and Rowe agreed that sticking out in the crowd will be a challenge for anyone, though they both said they’re unique enough to appeal to voters.
Rowe started the day at 10 a.m. at 33 Mildred St. where he opened a campaign office that he says is the first north of Portland that is occupied by a Democrat. Rowe used the opportunity to emphasize his campaign pledge of bringing new jobs to every corner of Maine, according to a press release.
“We need to make sure that everyone is enjoying the prosperity, not just the southern part of the state,” Rowe told the Bangor Daily News later in the day.
Mills blew into town during the evening hours, where he and supporters chatted in an informal setting at the Whig and Courier Pub on Broad Street. There was no speech or agenda, just Mills shaking hands and talking issues while volunteers and staffers sought $5 donations toward Mills’ bid to be a Maine Clean Election Fund candidate. It was one of several pub chats Mills has scheduled all over Maine. Asked what he hopes to accomplish at such a gathering, Mills said “not much.”
“It’s an opportunity to meet a bunch of people,” he said during an interview. “Events like this usually create some buzz about the campaign.”
Both candidates were quick to steer conversations to the issues. Rowe put his emphasis on creating jobs by way of upgrading the state’s transportation and telecommunications infrastructure.
“In order for us to grow businesses here in Maine we have to be able to transport products and services,” he said. “We also have to be connected with the rest of the world.”
Asked for ideas about how Maine can accomplish his infrastructure goals without further exacerbating a dire budget situation, Rowe said part of the solution is securing private-sector dollars.
“I have no plans to increase revenues,” he said when asked whether he supports tax increases to pay for some of his ideas. Rowe said during a gubernatorial debate in Portland recently that he might support an expansion of the tobacco tax, according to reports.
Rowe said his biggest challenge as a candidate is convincing people that Maine is not a corner outpost in the United States but a potential center of commerce on the world map.
“We can do [any type of business] from here,” said Rowe. “Maine people are self-reliant and honest, and their work ethic is second to none. The best days for this state are ahead of us.”
Mills said his chief goal as governor would be to revamp state government in an effort to maintain essential and valuable services while cutting down on expenditures. Asked how that’s different from what’s already happening in Augusta — where the Legislature is working on the latest of a series of budget bills designed to cut spending — Mills said his approach would emphasize priorities not across-the-board cuts that strip money from programs across state government without regard to what it’s spent on.
“With technology, we have the tools to assess programs now,” he said. “I’m a little fanatical when it comes to assessment. There have to be standards.”