AUGUSTA — Michael Heath, former executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine, has registered with the state ethics commission as a gubernatorial candidate.
Heath, a resident of China, is listed as an unenrolled candidate, which means he has until June 1 to get at least 4,000 signatures to qualify for the November ballot.
Heath recently announced the formation of a group called the American Family Association of Maine. At the time, he said he was “re-entering public life to continue the fight against the gay-rights lobby.”
Heath spent 15 years working for the Christian Civic League, and became its executive director in 1994. He twice led people’s veto efforts to overturn gay-rights laws.
Heath was not a visible part of last year’s fight over same-sex marriage, which ended with voters repealing a state law legalizing it. He announced his resignation in September from the civic league, which is now called the Maine Family Policy Council.
There are now 24 people running for governor. Of those, 12 are Democrats or Republicans who will compete in the June 8 primary for the right to represent their parties on the November ballot. For the other 12, June 1 is the deadline to determine who among them will qualify to compete in November.
Heath did not return a phone call or e-mail seeking comment.
Bob Celeste of Harrison, who is in charge of collecting the signatures that Heath needs, told the Sun Journal that “one of the reasons Mike got into the race is because of the direction the state is going; it’s taking such a turn to the left politically.”
“Yesterday, when Mike and I were talking over coffee, I said to him, ‘What we need is someone with high visibility that can get some press. I’d like you to run for governor,’” Celeste told the Lewiston paper.
Celeste said he and Heath were upset when the Maine Human Rights Commission recently considered issuing guidelines for equitable treatment of transgender students in public schools, including allowing them to use bathrooms and play on sports teams with the gender they identify with. A final decision is expected in May.
“This was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Celeste told the Sun Journal. “We need a bully pulpit; we need to let people know how bad this is becoming and how hard we’ve been fighting. Mike is the most viable candidate to restore Maine to its more conservative roots.”
The Sun Journal contributed to this report.