AUGUSTA, Maine — Three independent candidates for governor have qualified to have their names appear on the November ballot, potentially setting the stage for a five-way race for the Blaine House this fall.
Ten individuals had filed the initial paperwork signaling their intent to enter the gubernatorial race as “unenrolled” candidates. But as of 5 p.m. Tuesday, only three had gathered the 4,000 signatures from registered voters needed to qualify, although one candidate disputes that he fell short.
The three who qualified for the ballot are Eliot Cutler of Cape Elizabeth, Shawn Moody of Gorham and Kevin Scott of Andover.
Cutler is a former energy official in the Carter administration, who also worked as a staff member to the late Maine Sen. Edmund Muskie. A Bangor native, Cutler announced his bid for governor as an independent last December.
He has been campaigning vigorously since, even occasionally appearing at candidate debates alongside the 11 major-party contenders although unenrolled candidates do not face a primary election. Democratic and GOP voters will head to the polls on Tuesday to choose from four Democrats and seven Republican candidates.
Cutler’s most recent campaign finance disclosure forms, filed Friday with the Maine Ethics Commission, show that Cutler has raised more than $585,000 for his campaign and spent roughly $534,000
Moody, who owns several auto collision repair shops in southern Maine, entered the race without fanfare earlier this spring and has remained low profile.
In an interview Tuesday evening, Moody said he will decide whether to stay in the race after seeing “who’s left standing” on the day after the primary. His main interest, Moody said, is making sure the views of small-business owners are well-represented in the final field of candidates.
“We will see who gets the nod,” Moody said. “But we really feel strongly that small businesses are going to pull us out of this economic downturn.”
The last candidate to qualify for the ballot was Scott, who recruits engineers and other highly trained employees for high-tech firms. He is also chairman of the Andover Water District board of trustees and is a state-licensed public water system operator.
Scott has said he plans to run as the “everyman” candidate.
University of Maine political science professor Mark Brewer said he doubts Scott or Moody can have much of an impact on the election, but said Cutler “is in a different league” given his political background and capacity to generate significant financial support.
The anti-government, anti-establishment sentiment that has marked this year’s politics could also work to Cutler’s advantage, said Brewer.
“If Cutler could tap into that, then maybe he’s a player,” he said. And depending on whom the major parties nominate, “Cutler could have a big impact.”
One unenrolled candidate whose petitions were rejected by elections officials said Tuesday he plans to fight the decision, however.
Alex Hammer of Bangor has clashed with Secretary of State Matt Dunlap and staffers in Dunlap’s offices about the validity of petitions that Hammer had attempted to get certified by municipal clerks, as required under state law. Elections officials said Hammer fell roughly 800 signatures short of the threshold, although Hammer claims to have collected 5,900 signatures.
Hammer contends he was forced to submit electronic or scanned copies of his petition sheets to municipal clerks because the Secretary of State’s Office did not supply him with enough original copies.
Dunlap said last week that Hammer was given 100 petition sheets and then an additional 50, the same amount made available to all candidates due to recent budget cuts. Additionally, candidates could legally make photocopies of the originals, but Hammer told Dunlap’s office in an e-mail that he could not afford the costs of copies.
Hammer argues that nothing in the law prohibits the submission of scanned copies to municipal clerks. Dunlap counters that Maine election statutes do not specifically allow electronic copies, adding it would be “an extraordinary interpretation of the law” for him to say his office will now accept scanned copies.
While Hammer has accused Dunlap of attempting to stymie his candidacy, Dunlap pointed out that the same rules apply to all candidates equally.
Hammer, who also attempted to run as an unenrolled candidate for governor in 2006, said he is considering his options.
“We will definitely be pursuing this matter either as an appeal or in court,” Hammer said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.