WATERVILLE – Governor-elect Paul LePage pledged to put Maine people before politics in his victory speech Wednesday, while offering few details about his transition plans.
After an election night that left little time for sleep, the Republican spoke in the afternoon to a crowd of supporters and reporters at a Central Maine Motors Auto Group dealership. The car dealership is owned by a longtime friend of LePage, Charles Gaunce.
LePage said he stayed up most of the night monitoring the results of the race, which was too close to call until Wednesday morning.
“I ran for governor because I believe people of Maine need to be ahead of politics, even in Augusta,” he said. “Today, the voters agreed — people before politics.”
According to unofficial tallies, LePage won the five-candidate race for governor with about 38 percent of the vote, edging independent Eliot Cutler, who got about 37 percent. The margin between the men was about 8,000 votes.
Democrat Libby Mitchell finished third with about 19 percent of the vote. Independent Shawn Moody received about 5 percent, and independent Kevin Scott got about 1 percent.
LePage was the front-runner in recent polling, and he was surprised by the narrow margin of victory.
“It appears Democrats in the state seem to have thought it all over, and at the last minute they all went one way and it made it a lot tougher,” he said.
LePage credited hundreds of volunteers and supporters across the state with keeping his campaign moving forward through 15 months.
“Today, victory is shared by everyone here who stood with us, offered encouragement and worked and worked and worked,” he said. “Caucus by caucus, we inched up, and by February they called me the dark horse. In June, we shocked the pundits and they started calling me the big dog. Over the summer and into the fall, we stayed on message, despite many ups and downs — some of my making.”
The hardest part of the journey, LePage said, was dealing with negative campaigning and what he called an overly hostile press.
“Quite frankly, to all of you in the press, the print press I thought was more hostile than it needed to be,” he said.
The best part of the campaign was hearing from older Mainers who called in to give him their support, LePage said.
“About a week and a half ago, an 80-year-old gentleman called and said, ‘I just voted today and I’m on my deathbed, just praying I can make it until Tuesday,’ ” LePage said. He said it was a high point because the man took the time to call the campaign, pledging his support.
The plight of working people, business owners and parents was a strong focus of LePage’s victory speech.
“When Mainers wake up every morning, they worry about providing for their families; they do not worry about politics,” he said. “We talk about changing welfare in Maine so we can help move people from a life of dependency to a life with dignity, and we talked about the need to lower our energy and our health care costs and to get them under control. Today, Maine voters agreed. It is people before politics.”
LePage also thanked his opponents and said he looks forward to working with newly elected legislators from all parties.
Republicans won majorities in the House and Senate on Tuesday, and LePage said that will help him focus on fixing Maine’s economy.
“It’s a double-edged sword, because with a majority there are going to be a lot of people that are going to be expecting to do certain things and, as a party and as a state, we have to be very judicious on our change,” LePage said. “We have to think it through and we have to make sure it puts people first and that the state of Maine will prosper by the actions we take.”
LePage mentioned no names for potential Cabinet appointees. When asked whether he would find a spot for Cutler, he said, “If he’s willing to send a resume in, I’m willing to look at it; and it will be about where he would fit in.
“I’m not saying ‘no’ to anyone. We are looking for resumes. If you feel you can help the state, send them in,” LePage said.
He also “guaranteed” that there will be spots for Democrats, Republicans and independents.
MaineToday Media State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at: