Friday, March 7, 2014
Republican Paul LePage held a slim lead early today in the race for Maine governor.
Candidates Paul LePage and Eliot Cutler
As of 9:30 a.m., LePage had 38 percent of the vote and independent Eliot Cutler had 37 percent, with 89 percent of precincts reporting, according to The Associated Press. About 7,400 votes separated the two candidates.
Democrat Libby Mitchell conceded the race early, at 10 p.m., after initial results gave her about 20 percent of the vote.
“I will be supportive of the next governor, whoever that is,” she told more than 100 supporters at Bayside Bowl, with her family gathered behind her on stage. “We worked on our principles. We stood up for justice. We fought for our school teachers. We stood up for children.”
Mitchell’s early exit was a good sign for Cutler, who worked to draw Democratic voters and undecided voters in the final days and weeks of the campaign.
Cutler consistently led LePage in early returns, winning Bangor and Portland and the larger communities of southern Maine. But LePage took the lead in the vote counting after midnight as more small, rural towns reported results.
“It’s been a long evening and now we’ve taken the lead,” he told supporters at about 1:30 a.m. “We believe it’s going to continue to grow. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to be tonight, but we’re on the right track.”
Cutler told his supporters at about 1 a.m. that he would monitor results throughout the night. Win or lose, Cutler said, the campaign proved that negative campaigning doesn’t work here.
“What we accomplished with the rejection of negative campaigning is so important to the state of Maine,” Cutler told an interviewer.
LePage, the 62-year-old conservative mayor of Waterville, has been the clear front-runner since his runaway victory in the Republican primary in June. A blunt critic of big government and big spending, he was widely expected to ride the national pro-Republican wave into the Blaine House.
Winning election as governor would be the culmination of a remarkable life story.
He grew up in Lewiston’s “Little Canada,” the second-oldest of 18 children, and left his family at age 11 after receiving a beating from his alcoholic father. He later went to college and got a master’s degree in business and is now general manager of Marden’s Surplus and Salvage.
As Waterville’s mayor, he earned a reputation for cutting spending. He had strong support from Maine’s tea party groups.
LePage’s temper and rhetoric got him in some hot water during the campaign. He told voters that as governor he would tell President Obama to “go to hell,” and he blew up at reporters’ questions about homestead tax exemptions on his family’s homes in Maine and Florida. But the dip in his poll numbers was small, and temporary.
“I think he is ornery enough to do something,” said Albert Ingraham, a 61-year-old Republican and vending company owner in South Portland. “He has a good reputation in Waterville. I want change.”
Richard Downs, a 65-year-old retired Democrat in Portland, agreed.
“I think a change is what we need,” he said. “I think he’s going to bring some jobs to our state. We need them.”
Cutler, a 64-year-old lawyer from Cape Elizabeth, had consistently run third in the polls behind LePage and Mitchell for most of the long race. But his campaign surged in the past two weeks after he won newspaper endorsements across the state, and after Democrats came to see him as the candidate most likely to challenge LePage.
Cutler worked for U.S. Sen. Edmund Muskie, D-Maine, helping to write the landmark Clean Air and Clean Water acts. After a stint as a budget manager in the Carter administration, he had a long law career. In recent years, he led a law office in China, a connection that led to some of the campaign’s most controversial ads.
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