Just eight days after their hotly contested gubernatorial primaries, Republicans and Democrats, including candidates who fell short, held events Wednesday to show unity and rally behind their parties’ nominees.

In front of Waterville City Hall, the six men who lost to Waterville Mayor Paul LePage in last week’s Republican primary gathered to show their support and rally for GOP wins in November.

In South Portland, close to 200 Democrats, including Gov. John Baldacci, turned out for a reception and spaghetti supper to promote party unity and their candidate for governor, state Senate President Libby Mitchell.

In the general election Nov. 2, LePage and Mitchell will face three independents: Eliot Cutler of Cape Elizabeth, Shawn Moody of Gorham and Kevin Scott of Andover.

In Waterville, Republican Bill Beardsley, who finished fifth in his primary June 8, compared the seven GOP candidates to rival high school football teams that have just finished the season.

“Paul is captaining the team and we are all behind him 100 percent of the way,” Beardsley said, using that as a way to introduce Steve Abbott, a former Harvard football captain who finished fourth in the primary.

“Paul brings the perfect experience to this job,” Abbott said. “He has the business experience, he has the government experience and he has the life experience to be Maine’s next governor. I’m proud to be here today to support him.”

LePage got 37 percent of the vote in the primary and won 14 of Maine’s 16 counties. Although all of the former Republican candidates wore stickers or buttons to show their support for LePage, some tension from the hard-fought campaign was still evident.

Bruce Poliquin didn’t mention LePage at all during his time at the microphone. Instead, he praised Beardsley, the next speaker in line.

State Sen. Peter Mills said the field of seven men grew to be like a fraternity on the campaign trail, and he cautioned Republicans against focusing on polarizing social issues.

“It is important that we as a party begin to set aside some of the social issues that divide us and begin to focus on business, and specifically on the business of managing and running state government. It is a mess,” Mills said.

He then praised LePage for his skills as general manager of Marden’s Surplus & Salvage.

LePage said he would ask all of his former rivals to help guide policy.

“We are going to lower our taxes,” he said. “We are going to reform our regulatory environment and we are going to bring some common sense to Augusta.”

Little more than a week ago, it would have been strange to see Libby Mitchell, Rosa Scarcelli, Steve Rowe and John Richardson standing on a public stage with their arms around each other’s waists.

That’s what happened Wednesday night after Mitchell invited her former opponents to join her on the podium at the Events on Broadway banquet center in South Portland.

“I want these people up here with me because this is the way we are going to win (the November election),” Mitchell said. “These people are Maine giants.”

All of this year’s Democratic candidates for governor — except Pat McGowan, who was sick — came to South Portland. That included Richardson, who withdrew from the race in April after the state ethics commission found problems with his application for clean election funds.

As they spoke during the reception, Mitchell and Richardson hugged, and Richardson said, “Whatever I can do, just let me know.”

Mitchell said the Democrats will have to be unified to defeat LePage and Cutler in November.

In an interview before the event, Mitchell said she was so focused on winning her primary that she didn’t pay much attention to the seven-way race for the Republican nomination.

She said LePage has gained strength from a group of supporters who are fed up with their political leaders and are calling for less government.

Mitchell said she doesn’t believe that most Mainers view government in that light. “The message that Maine is about to fall off the end of the earth is not one that is resonating with Maine people,” she said.

Baldacci, who will leave office in January, said there is a stark difference between Democrats and LePage and his conservative tea party leanings.

Scarcelli urged party members to make history, by electing Maine’s first female governor.

She said, “I can’t tell you how many times on the campaign trail that people would come up and tell me, ‘I’m just sick of the men.’“

Rowe, the state’s former attorney general, spoke to the differences in philosophy between the Democrats and Republicans.

“It’s going to be a tough summer and a tough fall,” he said. “The political winds are blowing in very different directions.”

 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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

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