The mood among Maine voters ran from resignation to outrage as they went to the polls Tuesday to cast ballots in the race for governor and other elections.
Informal interviews at polling places showed some voters sticking to party lines, others venturing into new political territory and still others voting for the candidates they liked best, regardless of party.
Depending on their politics and points of view, voters cast ballots in favor of experience, out of a desire for change, and sometimes just to keep the other candidate from winning.
That was Gretchen Fleming’s strategy when she voted for independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler over Republican Paul LePage and Democrat Libby Mitchell.
“It was a hard decision,” said Fleming, 39, a teacher who lives in Norway.
“I didn’t really love any of them. But I really do not want Paul LePage to win.”
Fleming said she normally votes for Democrats or independents, but she was concerned that a vote for Mitchell was a vote for LePage.
“I think I would have voted for her, but from what I’ve read, the polls I’ve seen, Libby Mitchell was declining so much.”
Scott Chase, 48, a Republican who lives in Scarborough, voted for LePage for governor, with some reservations.
“He’s self-made, he’s familiar with working,” said Chase, a family physician. “I hope he is what he says, because I know there’s been a lot of misinformation out there. I think it’s time for some change. Hopefully, they’ll act on what the people want and not on their own agenda.”
Chase also voted for Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree over Republican Dean Scontras. “I think Chellie has done a lot for the people of Maine,” he said. “Dean, he’s a little too conservative, I think.”
Ferd Paradis, 63, a Republican who lives in Waterville, also voted for LePage, but he chose Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud over Republican Jason Levesque. “I like what he’s been doing so far,” Paradis said of Michaud.
While Maine teachers’ unions backed Mitchell, some educators voted otherwise.
Tim Luff, 31, a special education director who lives in Norway, said he voted for LePage and Levesque.
“I’m a Republican and voted on the basic principle of smaller government,” Luff said. “I’m all for a lot of social services, but not for the way the government handles it.”
Peter Roof, 60, a Republican retiree who lives in Newport, also voted for LePage and Levesque.
“I consider myself a libertarian, and I’m sick and tired of the same old stuff,” Roof said. “We need to reduce government. Whatever it takes to us to that point. I’ve lived here for more than 20 years and I was a businessman, and I was strangled by regulations and employee benefits. It’s a very anti-business climate in Maine.”
What turned some voters off turned other voters on.
Connie Gelinas, 74, and her husband, Bill, 75, Republican retirees who live in Scarborough, voted for LePage and Scontras.
“We voted for (LePage) not because he’s French — although that helps — and not because he’s Catholic — although that helps — but because he’s pro-life and pro-marriage,” Connie Gelinas said.
Tony Ackerman, 87, a Republican retiree who lives in Windham, voted for LePage because “he told it like it was. He has no frills. I liked his honesty. I had friends in Waterville who told me about his record as mayor.” He voted for Scontras because “he avoided having a negative attitude.”
Liz McMahon, 37, a stage art director who lives in Portland, voted for Mitchell and Pingree.
“I trust and agree with (Mitchell’s) track record in the past on taxes, education, the environment. She is very liberal,” said McMahon, a member of the Green Independent Party. “I have always been a big supporter (of Pingree) and think she has done an excellent job.”
Julie Levesque, 77, a retired Democrat who lives in Waterville, voted for Mitchell and Michaud.
“I’m strong Democratic-leaning and I approve of her stance on many issues,” Levesque said of Mitchell. “It’s more about other issues I don’t agree with, from her opponents.”
Tony Rose, 63, a retired Democrat who lives in Portland, also voted for Mitchell.
“I met her and had discussions with her and trust her,” Rose said. “It’s hard to say who’s lying the most. She isn’t pushing the limit of lying. A lot of them are lying. And a lot of them are too negative. All politicians should be honest. No negative ads. The ads should say, ‘This is my party and this is what I am doing. If you don’t like it, vote for someone else.’ “
Amy Boyington, 40, an unenrolled voter who is a nurse and lives in Scarborough, voted for Mitchell and Pingree.
“I wavered between Eliot Cutler and (Mitchell), but I didn’t like LePage. He just doesn’t seem qualified,” Boyington said. “I’m pretty liberal, grew up in northern Maine, and I think southern Maine is pretty liberal. But having moved away and come back, it made me aware of the conservatism here. I want Maine to be more welcoming.”
Carolyn Sloan, 62, an administrative assistant and Democrat who lives in Portland, voted for Mitchell and Pingree.
“I value (Mitchell’s) experience and her ability to work with the people in the Legislature,” Sloan said. “The Legislature has done a really great job of coping with the last two years — not that it’s been pleasant.”
Some Democrats voted for LePage and Scontras, including Richard Downs, 65, a retiree from Portland.
“I’m a registered Democrat, but that’s not the way I vote these days,” Downs said. “We’ve had Democrats in control now for so long in Augusta. That’s one of the reasons I was against (Mitchell), because she’s been there for 30 some-odd years and they’ve been in control, and look where we are. Why would I want her to be governor?”
Some unenrolled voters chose LePage and Levesque, including Robert Rossignol, 68, a retiree from Fairfield.
“I thought (LePage) did a good job in Waterville,” Rossignol said. “He was a very good mayor. He seems to be in business and we need someone in business, instead of all of those lawyers.” He voted for Levesque “because Mike Michaud is too much Nancy Pelosi-style.”
Republicans who voted for Cutler included Sally Petit, 56, a substitute teacher who lives in Scarborough.
“I didn’t choose Mitchell because she’s old school,” Petit said. “And LePage, I didn’t trust what he would do.”
Barbara Lord, 65, a Republican retiree who lives in Hallowell, also voted for Cutler. “I just think we needed a change,” she said.
Another Republican who voted for Cutler was Patricia Bessey, 39, a stay-at-home mom who lives in Newport.
“I liked everything he had to say,” Bessey said. “I just wanted fresh blood, but not LePage.” She voted for Michaud because “I like his experience.”
Democrats who voted for Cutler included Ramzi Karam, 67, a car salesman who lives in Scarborough.
Karam said he liked Cutler’s “background, his ads, his experience, his coolness. He doesn’t blow up, like somebody else. He showed up for all the debates, too. He did not skip any.”
Janice Hallee, 53, a laid-off teacher who lives in Fairfield, is another Democrat who voted for Cutler, as well as Michaud.
“He’s very well-spoken and sophisticated and has global experience,” Hallee said. “(Michaud) has a proven record and is careful in how he protects Maine.”
Cutler also got the vote of Diane Nickerson, 59, a receptionist who lives in Portland and is an unenrolled voter.
“I feel like he’s the one who can beat LePage,” Nickerson said. “It really wasn’t a vote against Libby Mitchell; it was a vote against LePage.”
Stu Grydo, 37, an unenrolled voter who lives in South Portland, also voted for Cutler because “he was the best bet to beat LePage” and because Cutler’s ads and commercials influenced him. “He seems to respond and be involved.”
Grydo, who is unemployed, voted for Pingree because “I like what she has done, and some of the stuff Scontras says scares me.”
Cutler was the choice for Irwin Rupert, 55, an unenrolled voter and computer specialist who lives in Cape Elizabeth.
Rupert said he feels Maine’s economy stands to benefit from Cutler’s business experience in China, which is expected to have the world’s largest economy in the next few decades. He said voters tend to put too much blame on the party in power during times of economic crisis, and the backlash against Democrats is an overreaction.
“Maine is still life the way it should be,” Rupert said. “The economy is a lot bigger than Maine. You’ve just got to ride out the lows.”
Shawn Moody and Kevin Scott, two other independent candidates in the five-way governor’s race, also got some votes.
Lois Dutton, 52, a retiree and Republican from Scarborough, voted for Moody “because he’s a small-business owner and I think he understands the general needs of people at all levels.”
Dee Terrio, 77, a retiree and Democrat from Newport, voted for Moody because “I like the way he thinks. He made more sense – common sense – and is ready to change and make Maine better.”
Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at: [email protected]