AUGUSTA, Maine — No decided front-runners have emerged in Tuesday’s primary races for governor, leaving the candidates scrapping for every last vote in elections that could turn on tiny margins.
Polling within the last week showed that half of Republicans and 60 percent of Democrats were undecided. The candidates vying for the position — seven Republicans and four Democrats — tried to make the best of their own polling to build momentum as the election drew closer.
“I have yet to meet a gubernatorial candidate whose polling numbers don’t tell them they’re first or second in the polls,” said Republican activist Eric Lusk, as a survey came out last week.
Democratic Gov. John Baldacci, who is completing his second four-year term, is constitutionally barred from seeking a consecutive third term.
Republicans jockeying for their party’s nomination include Steve Abbott, a former chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Susan Collins; former Husson University president Bill Beardsley; business development executive Matt Jacobson; Waterville Mayor Paul LePage; state Sen. Peter Mills; and businessmen Les Otten and Bruce Poliquin.
Democratic candidates are Senate President Libby Mitchell; former Attorney General Steve Rowe; Pat McGowan, a former legislator who also served in Baldacci’s Cabinet; and businesswoman Rosa Scarcelli.
Tuesday’s ballot will also feature four bond issues totaling $108 million and a people’s veto proposal to repeal an overhaul of Maine’s tax code.
While no one has a clear lead in the gubernatorial races, no one can be counted out either, given the small expected turnout. And while much has been said about voters’ anger and emergence of the tea party, they are “not a significant factor” in Tuesday’s expected participation, said Secretary of State Matt Dunlap.
Looking back at 2002, when the governor’s office was also open, there was a two-way GOP primary and six-way congressional primary in the 2nd District, along with several bond questions. Turnout was 18 percent, said Dunlap.
This time, a 20 percent turnout would be on the high side, he said. Voters having a hard time making up their minds is also a factor in turnout.
“One of the things that depresses turnout is indecision,” said Dunlap.
Candidates played on that indecision as they crisscrossed the state during the final days of the campaign to persuade voters to support them. Republican candidate Mills and Scarcelli, a Democrat, greeted fans Saturday outside Hadlock Field in Portland before a Sea Dogs-Reading Phillies game. McGowan, a Democrat, was also in Portland, a lacrosse game and transfer station among his stops.
Abbott, a Republican candidate, climbed on a motor coach for a whirlwind of campaign stops across the state as his campaign came to a close. Fellow Republican LePage trained his sights on Portland and York County.
Beardsley, a Republican, turned his attention from his own campaign long enough to issue a statement plugging the initiated proposal to repeal a state tax overhaul law, calling it “not tax relief (but) merely a complicated tax shift.” Maine’s Tea Party Patriots also urged voters to repeal the tax overhaul by voting yes.