July 25, 2010

Independent Moody faces new challenge

Shawn Moody, who built his business from the ground up, says, 'Different is what Maine needs right now.'

By Matt Wickenheiser mwickenheiser@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

GORHAM - As Shawn Moody drives along Route 202 in his old Chevy pickup, he waves to the guy pushing his bicycle, calling out his name.

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Shawn Moody, candidate for governor, was one of four panelists discussing employee stock option plans Friday at Moody's Collision Center in Gorham.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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Shawn Moody says he feels confident about his candidacy and suggests that his opponents should be worried. “As people get to know who I am, we’re going to take off,” he said.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

Later, he chats it up with the women working at the convenience store, an unassuming figure in jeans and a black T-shirt with a small blue "Moody's Collision Service" logo on it.

Moody has spent his life in this small Portland suburb, as a child, young man and successful business owner. He's a part of Gorham's fabric, a familiar figure who knows everyone, and is well-known.

Now he wants the rest of the state to know him, too.

Moody, a 50-year-old independent, officially launched his run for governor the day after the June primaries. He joins Republican Paul LePage and Democrat Elizabeth "Libby" Mitchell on the ballot, along with two other unenrolled, or independent, candidates: Eliot Cutler of Cape Elizabeth and Kevin Scott of Andover.

Moody portrays himself as the candidate for small businesspeople. He talks about his success in business and applying those lessons to state government.

He says he got into the race because he didn't see small-business owners represented. He began thinking about running for office during the McCain-Obama debates -- he thought the references to "Joe the plumber" discounted the value of tradespeople.

Moody faces some challenges.

While he's had success as president of the rapidly growing chain of Moody's Collision Centers, he's a newcomer to politics. Most of his opponents' names, on the other hand, have been in the news for months. And LePage and Libby have political parties backing them up.

But Moody -- and those who know him well -- cites his determination and discounts his late entry into politics.

He enjoys some name recognition from the business, and hopes to capitalize on that with campaign logos that mimic his business logos. He's taken an unconventional approach to getting his name out there, with an airplane towing a campaign banner around the state.

And he's loaned his campaign $500,000, showing he's got the financial wherewithal to make a strong bid.

He started his business at age 17 in a three-bay garage in Gorham -- it now has four other locations in southern Maine and employs 75 people.

"We know how to start from scratch," Moody said.

Mark Eastman, Moody's high school principal and current superintendent of the Oxford Hills school system, warned against underestimating him.

"People might dismiss him, because he's had such a limited area of focus. But when you sit down and talk with him, he has a sense of what needs to be done," Eastman said. "I think people are going to be surprised at some of his ideas, some of his skills. He's a fighter, I can tell you that."

Moody's parents divorced when he was a year and a half old. His mother, a beautician, raised him and his older brother and sister and bought a house on Narragansett Street when he was 7.

Moody said he remembered riding on the bike handlebars as his brother, Thad, delivered newspapers. Later, when Moody took over the route, he'd often bike over to the nearby Gorham Race Track after finishing deliveries and ride the sulkies around the course.

Later, at about 12 or 13, he had what he called a life-changing experience. His mother was hospitalized for more than a month, his brother and sister weren't home, so he was on his own. He said he became more independent.

Soon after, he became interested in cars -- almost exclusively. His brother was studying mechanics at what was then Southern Maine Vocational Technical Institute, and Moody read his brother's textbooks. He began tinkering with cars, and never stopped. Today, his cell phone ring is the "ahooga" of an antique car.

(Continued on page 2)

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