BANGOR, Maine — Republican gubernatorial nominee Paul LePage told a fired-up crowd of supporters on Tuesday that a re-energized GOP in Maine has the momentum to win not only the Blaine House but also potentially both chambers of the Legislature this November.
But to win, LePage said, Republicans statewide will need to replicate the type of grass-roots campaign support that led to his commanding primary victory.
“It’s not going to be enough to win the Blaine House, because I really am confident that we are going to do that,” LePage told about 80 people attending a Bangor Republican City Committee. “What we really need to do is to finish the job.”
Since his self-described “stealth campaign” emerged victorious on June 8, LePage has sought not only to maintain but also to build the enthusiasm for his candidacy. If Tuesday night’s meeting was any indication, LePage’s message continues to resonate with voters.
More than one-third of those attending the Bangor GOP event were from other towns, according to a show of hands from the crowd. A number of people traveled more than an hour to hear LePage, the outspoken Waterville mayor.
“This is a breath of fresh air,” said state Sen. Roger Sherman, R-Houlton. “I can feel it around the state.”
Running on a conservative, anti-Augusta platform, LePage surprised even himself in June by clobbering his six GOP competitors at the polls, winning 37 percent of the Republican votes. Turnout for the GOP primary was also the largest in roughly a half-century, according to reports.
“We were under the radar screen,” LePage said. “It took them three months to even call me a ‘dark horse.’ And we didn’t just win, we sent a loud, loud message to the state of Maine that people are tired of being lied to, they are tired of seeing their taxes go up and up and up and seeing regulations get tougher and tougher and tougher.”
During his speech, LePage urged those in attendance to get involved at the local level and to contribute to his campaign. After winning the Republican primary while spending just $190,000, LePage predicted it would take at least $2 million to be successful against some of his well-funded opponents.
The candidate told the crowd that the Republican Governor’s Association has pledged $1 million to his campaign, but only if he can raise at least $1 million first.
Democratic nominee Sen. Libby Mitchell will receive up to $1.2 million in funding through Maine’s Clean Elections program but also is expected to get significant financial support from labor unions and the national Democratic Party.
Independent candidate Eliot Cutler already has raised or spent more than $700,000, even though he never faced a primary, and independent Shawn Moody already has invested $500,000 of his own money in his campaign.
But LePage said another key to a November victory — both for himself and for GOP legislative candidates — is to hold on to those unenrolled voters who registered as Republicans in order to participate in the primary.
“It is our imperative to keep them,” LePage said. “We need to shrink the number of independents and make them Republican.”