September 17, 2019
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What early campaign cash totals tell us about the race to replace LePage

Carter F. McCall | BDN
Carter F. McCall | BDN
The Blaine House in Augusta.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine’s crowded field of 2018 gubernatorial hopefuls raised at least $2.2 million by 2017’s end, with an early start by Democrat Adam Cote and a big personal contribution from Republican Shawn Moody pushing them to the top of their primary fields.

[How to follow the money in Maine’s crowded 2018 gove r nor’s race]

Financial filings due to the state Tuesday provided the first look at the books for all but a few of the 24 candidates running to replace the term-limited Gov. Paul LePage, who ascended from the Waterville mayoral seat to the governorship in 2010.

But the Republican governor was running a lean $61,000 operation at this point in his 2010 bid, spending less than three primary opponents he would beat. At this stage, fundraising can be as much about outlasting lesser opponents as much as it is about topping the rest of the field.

Cote, an attorney from Sanford, was the overall leader through 2017’s end, raising just over $527,000 for his primary bid. But he kicked off his run more than two months ahead of Attorney General Janet Mills of Farmington, who raised $351,000 through the year’s second half.

But it was Moody, a Gorham businessman, who had the highest per-day total of all candidates. He raised $286,000 in just six weeks after announcing his run in November, though $150,000 of it was his own money. That put him well ahead of the other four Republican candidates.

Nine others are vying to qualify for taxpayer-funded Clean Election money, which requires that candidates get 3,200 contributions of $5 from Mainers by early April. It unlocks at least $400,000 for candidates in party primaries and $200,000 for independents.

But for now, they can only raise “seed money” from individuals in $100 increments. Hallowell lobbyist Betsy Sweet, a Democrat, led that group with $88,000, which is more than 2010 Democratic nominee Libby Mitchell had at this point during her Clean Election bid.

Independent Maine State Treasurer Terry Hayes of Buckfield raised $42,000 under those parameters, and Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon Falls, raised $32,000.

But Mason said that he may qualify for Clean Election funding in the “next couple or three weeks.” Sweet said her campaign has gathered more than a third of the necessary contributions, and a spokeswoman for Hayes said she has gathered less than a third.

Third in fundraising among the 13-person Democratic field was former Maine House Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick, who raised $160,000, though he spent $121,000 of it. Second among Republicans was former Maine Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew, who raised $198,000.

Of the major candidates in their fields, Cote and Mayhew have been in the race the longest. The reports reflected that, with Cote spending $176,000 by year’s end and Mayhew spending $103,000. Moody only spent $26,000, and Mills spent $120,000.

Senate President Mike Thibodeau of Winterport ranked third in money among the five-way Republican field, raising $91,000 and spending $32,000.

Independent Alan Caron of Freeport raised more than $280,000, but that was only after $250,000 in loans from the communications consultant and his wife. Former state Sen. James Boyle, D-Gorham, loaned his campaign $80,000 of its $120,000 haul for the primary.

The most disappointing showings may belong to House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, at $14,000, Sen. Mark Dion, D-Portland, at $16,000, and former state Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, who raised $50,000 but spent all but $5,000 of it and is $73,000 in debt.

Other candidates raised $10,000 or less under private and Clean Election parameters or didn’t report results Tuesday.

For a roundup of Maine political news, click here for the Daily Brief. Click here to get Maine’s only newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings.

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Correction: An earlier version of this report incorrectly stated that there are 25 candidates for governor. After a recent withdrawal, there are now 24.

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