June 9, 2010

The day after: Governor's race takes shape

And they’re off.
Democrats chose Libby Mitchell and Republicans picked Paul LePage as their party nominees Tuesday night, setting the field for the November contest to replace Gov. John Baldacci.
Mitchell, the Senate President, held back a field of three others, while LePage, the Mayor of Waterville, cruised to victory in a seven-man race.
They will face independents Eliot Cutler, Shawn Moody and Kevin Scott in the fall.

DEMOCRATS

By Susan Cover

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. (Watch acceptance speech here)

“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 95 percent of precincts reporting Wednesday afternoon, Mitchell had 35 percent of the vote, followed by former Attorney General Steven Rowe with 23 percent, businesswoman Rosa Scarcelli with 22 percent and former Conservation Commissioner Pat McGowan with 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.

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.

(Continued on page 2)

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