AUGUSTA, Maine — Yarmouth businessman Steve Woods on Wednesday became the third person and first Democrat to register with the Maine Ethics Commission as a candidate in the 2014 governor’s race.
Republican Gov. Paul LePage and independent Eliot Cutler, who lost narrowly to LePage in 2010, also have filed as 2014 gubernatorial candidates.
Woods ran as an independent candidate for U.S. Senate in 2012. He attracted attention early during the campaign to succeed retiring Republican U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe by saying he endorsed one of his opponents, independent Angus King, who won the election, and by vowing that he would donate his federal salary to a Maine charity if elected.
Woods withdrew from the six-person U.S. Senate race and again endorsed King the weekend before Election Day. His name remained on the ballot and he garnered approximately 1.5 percent of the statewide vote.
Shortly after the election, he registered as a Democrat and announced that he had formed an exploratory committee to determine whether to seek the Democratic nomination for governor in 2014.
“While I certainly do not agree with every element of the Democratic Party doctrine, I am steadfast in my convictions and principles that put the equal rights, liberties and freedoms of all Americans first and I am proud to now (re)identify myself as a Democrat,” he wrote in a Nov. 15, 2012, commentary in the Bangor Daily News.
Woods has not held state or federal elected office. He is the chairman of the Yarmouth Town Council and owns a collective of six marketing businesses in Falmouth, called TideSmart Global. He listed his personal worth at between $12.7 million and $58.9 million in information provided to the Bangor Daily News in 2012 for a candidate profile.
“Maine faces many serious challenges and I believe that my experience serving in municipal government and over 30 years of executive business leadership will serve Maine well as the next governor,” Woods said Thursday in a statement announcing his campaign.
He said he plans to travel throughout Maine during the next few months to meet voters.
In a phone interview Friday, Woods said LePage’s combative style adds to state government’s problems.
“When you are in turbulent seas and turbulent weather, you don’t want to compound the challenge by having a captain who is erratic or divisive with the crew,” Woods said.
He said he met Thursday with Maine Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant, and that party leaders have supported his decision to campaign as a Democrat. While saying he has been a Democrat for 30 years, Woods signaled that he would strive to minimize partisanship if elected.
“I don’t think the role of governor is to build a political base,” he said. “It is to be fair and honest to all Mainers. The best thing I can do as a Democrat is show that I and the Democratic party put Mainers first.”
Like Cutler and LePage, Woods registered to run as a privately funded candidate. Kevin Joyce is listed as his campaign treasurer.
Former Gov. John Baldacci, a Democrat who served from 2003 to 2011, has said he would consider another run for the governorship, depending on who else emerges as Democratic challengers to LePage and, most likely, Cutler.
North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling tested a number of Democrats, but not Woods, in hypothetical contests against LePage or in three-way races with LePage and Cutler. Those scenarios showed LePage faring well in a three-person contest, but losing straight up against Cutler or Democrats Baldacci, 1st District U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree or 2nd District U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud in two-person races.