This column was updated at 11:55 a.m. June 22 to correct the name of the group congratulating Paul LePage on election night to the Republican Governors Association.

AUGUSTA – At a recent panel discussion about the primary elections, one audience member cut right to the chase: Who will win in November?

There were four journalists and a pollster on the panel, and all of us hemmed and hawed.

The answers ranged from “one of the five people on the ballot” to “the one who gets the most votes” and my insightful prediction — “I have no earthly idea.”

Why are people such as The Portland Press Herald’s editorial writer M.D. Harmon, Mal Leary of Capitol News Service, A.J. Higgins of the Maine Public Broadcasting Network and MaryEllen FitzGerald of Critical Insights so reluctant to express an opinion?

Let’s do a quick recap of what’s happened in the last six months:

Who knew in January that Democrat John Richardson would drop out in April, after the ethics commission found problems with his application for Clean Election funds? That cut the size of the Democratic field from five to four and left many union votes up for grabs.

Who knew that a group of Knox County Republicans with ties to the tea party would replace the GOP platform with one that calls for the elimination of the Department of Education, among other things?

Who knew that turnout would be so high? Republicans who have run many campaigns predicted that 70,000 to 90,000 people would vote in their primary. More than 130,000 voted.

Who knew that Waterville Mayor Paul LePage would win a seven-way race with 37 percent of the vote, and that second-place finisher Les Otten would get just 17 percent?

And — this is relevant going forward — who knew that three independent candidates would qualify for the November ballot and that two of them, Eliot Cutler and Shawn Moody, would be well-funded?

Given those factors, it shouldn’t be surprising that even those of us who watch these races closely don’t dare make predictions five months before the election.

 

LePAGE GOES NATIONAL

Two national Republican groups were quick to congratulate Waterville Mayor Paul LePage after his win in the gubernatorial primary last week — a likely indication that he will benefit from their support in the fall election.

Republicans at the national level are excited about the possibility of winning in Maine this year after a 16-year drought.

At 11:38 p.m. on election night, the Republican Governors Association put out this statement:

“LePage’s story is one of great trial and real success, tremendous heartache and incredible accomplishment. He beat the odds, lived the American dream and will fight tirelessly to ensure that all Maine people have the same opportunity.”

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele also sent his congratulations.

 

GIRL POWER

Senate President Elizabeth Mitchell, the Democratic nominee for governor, and one of her opponents, Rosa Scarcelli, had a surprise announcement on the day after the election.

Mitchell’s granddaughter, Abigail, and Scarcelli’s daughter, Charlotte, are best friends who just finished the fourth grade in Portland. During the campaign, Mitchell said she and Scarcelli were careful to show the girls that while it’s good to compete, it doesn’t mean it has to be negative.

“They’ve been very worried about what happens after this campaign is over. Is it going to be OK?” Mitchell said. “Rosa and I wanted them to know that this is family.”

Scarcelli added: “It’s important to teach our girls all that they can accomplish.”

 

INDEPENDENTS DEBATE URGED

Independent candidate Kevin Scott of Andover has called on Eliot Cutler and Shawn Moody to participate in a “Debate of Independents” that would be aired on television.

Scott, 42, who owns a company called Recruiting Resources International, said he hopes that a major television station will step forward to serve as host.

“Maine voters have met and heard the national political party candidates in debates, print, etc.,” he wrote in a news release. “Now it’s time for Maine’s 385,000 unenrolled voters to have a chance to see their candidates debate.”

No word yet on whether Scott has any takers.

 

SCONTRAS RUN KICKS OFF TODAY

Republican Dean Scontras of Eliot, who is running against U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree in the 1st Congressional District, will formally kick off his campaign today in Portland.

Scontras plans a 10:30 a.m. news conference at Portland & Co. Marine Complex on Fore Street. It will be followed by a cookout for supporters and their families, according to the news release.

 

MaineToday Media State House Reporter Susan Cover can be contacted 620-7015 or at:

[email protected]