PORTLAND — Senate President Libby Mitchell defeated three opponents Tuesday in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, advancing to November’s election and moving a step closer to becoming the state’s first female governor.

“Tonight speaks to the politics of hope and not fear,” she said. “To the politics of bringing people together, not the politics of division.”

With 71 percent of precincts reporting late Tuesday night, Mitchell had 35 percent of the vote, followed by former Attorney General Steven Rowe with 24 percent, businesswoman Rosa Scarcelli with 21 percent and former Conservation Commissioner Pat McGowan with 20 percent.

With 95 percent of the returns counted by Wednesday afternoon, Mitchell maintained her 35 percent share of the vote, while Rowe received 23 percent, Scarcelli 22 percent, and McGowan 20 percent.

Rowe, after hugging his wife, Amanda, and other family members, conceded at 11:45 p.m.

He said he called Libby Mitchell to congratulate her, and pledged to support her in the general election in November.

“Regardless of the outcome, I’m a winner and I feel that way tonight,” Rowe said, thanking a crowd of more than 50 at Bull Feeney’s pub in Portland’s Old Port.

“When we began this 12 months ago, I said it was going to be a journey. And the journey ends tonight,” he said.

At Bayside Bowl in Portland – a new venue owned by Mitchell’s son Charlie and Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland – Mitchell’s supporters gathered in the bar area and bowled a few frames as they awaited results.

Mitchell’s spokesman Jeremy Kennedy said the campaign’s ground game, which included a get-out-the-vote call from former President Bill Clinton, gave them hope for a win.

“We had an aggressive voter identification effort,” he said. “While results are still rolling in, we’re cautiously optimistic.”

Early on, when televised results showed Waterville Mayor Paul LePage with a commanding lead in the GOP primary, a cheer went up from Mitchell supporters. To Democrats, LePage would be a good opponent because they feel he is less likely to appeal to moderates and independents.

The four Democrats in the primary rarely challenged one another throughout the campaign, with Mitchell, McGowan and Rowe having worked together in various state positions for many years.

Scarcelli, who ran as an outsider, often told voters that she was a needed fresh face in a field of established Augusta insiders.
They called her election night party “Win-Win.”

“We’re calling it that because no matter what the results, we feel that Rosa has come in and done a great job. Here is someone with no background in politics who has run a terrific campaign against some very experienced politicians,” said Sarah Serling, a scheduler for the campaign.

The winner of the Democratic race will face a Republican and three independents in the fall.

During the day, Rowe, Mitchell and the other candidates criss-crossed the state from polling place to polling place, shaking hands to remind voters one more time that they needed their support for victory.

Mitchell, 69, the first female speaker of the Maine House, said earlier in the day that she wasn’t certain she’d win, but that she had received positive reactions from voters.

“I have had such a fabulous response,” she said. “Everywhere I’ve been, there’s been a lot of recognition. If I don’t win, I’m at peace. I know I’ve had the support of extraordinary people.”

In Lewiston, McGowan, 54, hit two polling places before hopping aboard his airplane to head for Bangor.
He started the day in Fort Kent.

“To be this close to the election and have this many undecideds is good for me,” he said as she stood outside the Lewiston Armory. “My opponents are such known commodities, except for Rosa.”

Scarcelli and Rowe campaigned in southern Maine late in the day, greeting voters as people came to Portland and Scarborough to cast votes after work.

Rowe, 57, stood outside the Italian Heritage Center and said hello to many familiar faces.

“You’re the next governor!” one woman said. “I’ll vote for you.”

In Scarborough, Scarcelli, 40, wore her signature orange sweater as she greeted voters. She felt encouraged because of the level of activity on her Twitter account and Facebook page, but she had no firm polling numbers to back it up.

“You look even better in person than you do on TV!” a woman said as she walked in to vote.

As she stood with a giant “Vote Here Tuesday” banner behind her, Scarcelli wrapped up a long day – along with many of the other 11 candidates – spent wooing voters across the state.

“We’re feeling very strong,” she said, just minutes before the polls closed. “There’s a tremendous amount of momentum. Hopefully, the people who really want to see new ideas will come out.”

MaineToday Media State House Reporter Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at: scover@centralmaine.com

 

12 a.m.

Libby Mitchell released the following statement upon receiving the Democratic nomination for governor of Maine:

“I would like to thank the Democratic voters of Maine for their support. I am grateful for their confidence that together, we can move this state forward.  We face tremendous challenges ahead, but I know that we can support small businesses to create jobs, improve education, make health care more affordable and work towards a clean energy future.

“We all want Maine to be a place where we our children live, work and raise families. That’s why I’m running for governor, because I believe that working together – we can get things done for Maine.”

“I congratulate the other Democratic candidates, Steve Rowe, Pat McGowan and Rosa Scarcelli, who ran hard fought campaigns. Every one of them has tremendous accomplishments and wants the very best future for Maine. I’m proud that we all ran a positive campaign and look forward to a positive discussion in the general election.”
 

10:50 p.m.

Democrat Libby Mitchell took a slim lead over Steven Rowe in the four-way race for the Democratic nomination for governor.

As of 10:50, with 40 percent  of 596 precincts reporting, Mitchell, the Senate President, had 35 percent of the vote.

Rowe had 26 percent, while Rosa Scarcelli had 21 percent and Patrick McGowan trailed 19 percent.

At Bayside Bowl in Portland, Mitchell supporters gathered in the bar area and bowled a few frames as they awaited results. The new venue is owned by Mitchell’s son, Charlie; and Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland.

Mitchell campaign spokesman Jeremy Kennedy said their ground game, which included a get-out-the-vote call from former President Bill Clinton, gave them hope for a win.

“We had an aggressive voter identification effort,” he said. “While results are still rolling in, we’re cautiously optimistic.”

Toby McGrath, Rowe’s campaign manager, had his eyes on the computer screen at a table upstairs at Bull Feeney’s pub in Portland. The word “anxious” was an understatement at 8:30 p.m.

“It’s such a competitive race,” McGrath said.

About 30 minutes later, Rowe spoke to supporters.

“I’m just filled with a lot of thanks and a lot of pride this evening,” Rowe, 57, said to the crowd of about 200 people. “However it comes out tonight, and we won’t know that until later, I’m a winner because of you,” he said.

Supporters of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rosa Scarcelli mingled at the Portland Harbor Hotel or what is being billed as her “Win-Win Party.”

“We’re calling it that because, no matter what the results, we feel that Rosa has come in and done a great job. Here is someone with no background in politics who has run a terrific campaign against some very experienced politicians,” said Sarah Serling, a scheduler for the campaign.

Serling and other staffers believed Scarcelli would compete throughout the tabulation of election returns.

In Lewiston, McGowan, 54, hit two polling places before hopping aboard his airplane to head for Bangor. He started the day in Fort Kent.

“To be this close to the election and have this many undecideds is good for me,” he said as she stood outside the Lewiston Armory. “My opponents are such known commodities, except for Rosa.”

At his campaign party last night in Augusta, as the early results revealed him lagging behind his three competitors, McGowan struck a hopeful tone.

“The early indicators, they don’t look good,” he said. “I’ve never been an urban candidate and there are still a lot of rural areas to come in.”

The winner of the Democratic race will face a Republican and three independents in the fall.

 

7:33 p.m.

Patrick McGowan, Elizabeth Mitchell, Steven Rowe or Rosa Scarcelli: After the polls close at 8 tonight, one will be the Democratic Party’s nominee for governor of Maine.

The race remained tight throughout the months, and the candidates left nothing to chance on election day, hitting all points of the state to try to secure votes.

Mitchell, one of four Democrats on the ballot, started the day in Bangor where she ran into Stephen and Tabitha King. She and the other candidates hit several places throughout the day, with every one of them making stops in Lewiston, but branching out from there.

In Lewiston, McGowan hit two polling places before hopping aboard his airplane to head for Bangor. He started the day in Fort Kent and will end it in Pittsfield, where he’ll see his parents.

Scarcelli and Rowe campaigned in southern Maine. Mitchell, Scarcelli and Rowe will all have their election night parties in Portland, while McGowan will be in Augusta.

Scarcelli appeared to be making a late push by loaning herself an additional $248,000 since the May 28 campaign finance report deadline, according to documents filed with the state. Most of that money has been spent on television advertising.

In recent weeks, scant polling data put the race in a dead heat and likely Democratic voters largely undecided as they headed toward the primary.

A Pan Atlantic SMS Group poll released June 1 reported 61.7 percent of Democrats likely to vote in the primary as undecided. According to the poll, 13.3 percent of those called said they planned to vote for Mitchell, or were leaning that way. Mitchell is the current Senate president. Former Attorney General Rowe had support from 11.7 percent of those called. Scarcelli, a political newcomer and Portland businesswoman, had 7 percent. And McGowan, former conservation commissioner, had 6.3 percent.

But the poll had a margin of error of 5.7 percent, putting those candidates in a statistical deadheat.

The Maine Democratic Party has planned a “unity press conference” for Wednesday in Portland, said Arden Manning, coordinated campaign manager for the party.

“What it really shows is the party is unified behind our nominee,” he said. “We have a field of candidates who I think genuinely like each other.”

The winners of both primaries will face as many as three independents on the November ballot. Shawn Moody, of Gorham; Eliot Cutler, of Cape Elizabeth; and Kevin Scott, of Andover, all have qualified to compete in the election, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. Moody has said he will announce on Wednesday whether he will run.