Paul LePage has won the race to be Maine’s next governor.
At 1:30 p.m. today with 96 percent of precincts reporting, LePage had 38 percent of the votes with 210,279, and Independent Eliot Cutler had 37 percent with 201,801 votes.
LePage’s lead continued to grow as small towns provided late returns.
LePage had to wait until late Wednesday morning to learn for sure that he’d won. He also learned that Republicans had won control of both the Maine House and the Maine Senate.
“We’re not going to Augusta with an ax to be chopping heads. We’re going to Augusta to do the same thing we did in Waterville: Reverse the trend of high taxes, streamline regulations, and shrink the size and scope of government. We need more jobs. We need better jobs in Maine, and that’s what we’re going to be doing,” he said.
He told The Associated Press he was getting to work right away on assembling his transition team. He said his priority will be to “put Maine people ahead of politics.”
Cutler called to congratulate LePage today and later announced that he would not seek a recount.
The 62-year-old LePage surprised political observers and even himself with a decisive win in a seven-way primary in June. The victory in his first statewide campaign marks another step in a rags-to-riches story for LePage, who was homeless at age 11 but went on to finish college and have a successful career in business.
Fluent in French, LePage will become Maine’s first Franco-American governor since 1879, when Alonzo Garcelon was elected by the Legislature to serve a one-year term.
LePage ran for governor with promises to cut taxes, reform welfare, reduce what he sees as a bloated state bureaucracy and cut regulations he said hamper business and job growth. LePage surprised political observers with a decisive win in a seven-way primary in June, while playing down his support from tea party activists.
LePage brought to the campaign a compelling personal story that few if any Maine politicians in recent decades could match. Abused in an impoverished home, he took to the streets of Lewiston at age 11 and took shelter wherever he could find it, sometimes in horse stables or an upstairs room of a strip joint.
He went on with his education and launched a successful business career, currently as general manager of Marden’s, a chain of surplus and salvage stores.
Running for the highest office in a state where more than on a third of the population is of French and Canadian descent, LePage displayed his Franco-American heritage with pride. During an early televised debate, he addressed the audience during the opening in French.
LePage repeatedly stressed his bedrock belief that giving businesses more freedom from government regulations will enable them to expand and create jobs, pointing to Maine’s nationally low rating for pro-business climate.
He said a governor alone “cannot create private-sector jobs, but create the environment and culture in Augusta to reform its regulatory system, to bring it back into the middle of the pack, to unleash the job creators.”
Married with five grown children, including two from a previous marriage, LePage’s personal financial dealings came into question during the campaign when it was revealed his wife had sought tax breaks on homes in Florida as well as Maine. LePage’s wife, Ann, lives in Florida for part of the year to care for her ill mother.
LePage’s’ opponent, Independent candidate Eliot Cutler, gave his concession speech at a noon press conference in Portland.
The Cape Elizabeth resident thanked his staff, family and supporters, and said he called LePage at around 10:45 this morning to concede the race.
“I didn’t want to stand in his way and extend the uncertainty,” Cutler said at a press conference at his campaign headquarters in Portland. “It wouldn’t be good for him or the state.”
He said LePage thanked him but didn’t say much more.
Cutler said he went to bed around 2:30 a.m. today knowing he didn’t have enough votes to win the election but he was hopeful that the tally would be close enough to justify a recount. By mid-morning, though, trailing by nearly 7,000 voters with more than 90 percent of precincts reporting, he concluded that the chance of prevailing was not strong enough to justify the expense of a recount.
“I don’t see the benefit outweighing the costs,” he said.
Cutler become emotional at times as he read his speech, particularly when he said he had run to honor his grandfather and also Ed Muskie, for whom he had worked as a young man.
During this press conference, Cutler never mentioned the name of Libby Mitchell, the Democratic nominee who finished a distant third with 19 percent of the vote. Mitchell and The Maine Democratic Party had run negative ads against Cutler. Cutler, who did not run any negative ads, said his recent surge in the polls was a victory for those who oppose negative campaign advertising.
“I believe we have stuck a dagger in the heart of negative advertising in the state,” he said.