June 9, 2010

Mitchell is Democratic nominee

Watch Mitchell's acceptance speech (Video by Stephanie Hardiman)

By Susan M. Cover scover@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

PORTLAND — Senate President Libby Mitchell defeated three opponents Tuesday in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, advancing to November’s election and moving a step closer to becoming the state’s first female governor.

click image to enlarge

Libby Mitchell, Democratic gubernatorial nominee, greets supporters at her campaign headquarters in Portland Tuesday.

AP

“Tonight speaks to the politics of hope and not fear,” she said. “To the politics of bringing people together, not the politics of division.”

With 71 percent of precincts reporting late Tuesday night, Mitchell had 35 percent of the vote, followed by former Attorney General Steven Rowe with 24 percent, businesswoman Rosa Scarcelli with 21 percent and former Conservation Commissioner Pat McGowan with 20 percent.

With 95 percent of the returns counted by Wednesday afternoon, Mitchell maintained her 35 percent share of the vote, while Rowe received 23 percent, Scarcelli 22 percent, and McGowan 20 percent.

Rowe, after hugging his wife, Amanda, and other family members, conceded at 11:45 p.m.

He said he called Libby Mitchell to congratulate her, and pledged to support her in the general election in November.

“Regardless of the outcome, I’m a winner and I feel that way tonight,” Rowe said, thanking a crowd of more than 50 at Bull Feeney’s pub in Portland’s Old Port.

“When we began this 12 months ago, I said it was going to be a journey. And the journey ends tonight,” he said.

At Bayside Bowl in Portland – a new venue owned by Mitchell’s son Charlie and Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland – Mitchell’s supporters gathered in the bar area and bowled a few frames as they awaited results.

Mitchell’s spokesman Jeremy Kennedy said the campaign’s ground game, which included a get-out-the-vote call from former President Bill Clinton, gave them hope for a win.

“We had an aggressive voter identification effort,” he said. “While results are still rolling in, we’re cautiously optimistic.”

Early on, when televised results showed Waterville Mayor Paul LePage with a commanding lead in the GOP primary, a cheer went up from Mitchell supporters. To Democrats, LePage would be a good opponent because they feel he is less likely to appeal to moderates and independents.

The four Democrats in the primary rarely challenged one another throughout the campaign, with Mitchell, McGowan and Rowe having worked together in various state positions for many years.

Scarcelli, who ran as an outsider, often told voters that she was a needed fresh face in a field of established Augusta insiders.
They called her election night party “Win-Win.”

“We’re calling it that because no matter what the results, we feel that Rosa has come in and done a great job. Here is someone with no background in politics who has run a terrific campaign against some very experienced politicians,” said Sarah Serling, a scheduler for the campaign.

The winner of the Democratic race will face a Republican and three independents in the fall.

During the day, Rowe, Mitchell and the other candidates criss-crossed the state from polling place to polling place, shaking hands to remind voters one more time that they needed their support for victory.

Mitchell, 69, the first female speaker of the Maine House, said earlier in the day that she wasn’t certain she’d win, but that she had received positive reactions from voters.

“I have had such a fabulous response,” she said. “Everywhere I’ve been, there’s been a lot of recognition. If I don’t win, I’m at peace. I know I’ve had the support of extraordinary people.”

In Lewiston, McGowan, 54, hit two polling places before hopping aboard his airplane to head for Bangor.
He started the day in Fort Kent.

“To be this close to the election and have this many undecideds is good for me,” he said as she stood outside the Lewiston Armory. “My opponents are such known commodities, except for Rosa.”

(Continued on page 2)

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