July 3, 2013

LePage: I'm running for re-election

The governor makes his announcement at a fundraiser with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, where tickets went for $150 to $3,000.

By Eric Russell erussell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

KENNEBUNKPORT -– Gov. Paul LePage cast aside any lingering doubts about his political future Tuesday when he told supporters at a private fundraiser that he fully intends to run for re-election next year.

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In this January file photo, Gov. Paul LePage holds a press conference at the University of New England's College of Dental Medicine. LePage said Tuesday, July 2, 2013 he's running for re-election.

Gabe Souza / Staff Phoptographer

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Attendees, including one wearing a Republican-themed sweater, walk into a private fundraiser for Gov. Paul LePage at the Nonantum Resort in Kennebunkport on Tuesday.

Carl D. Walsh / Staff Photographer

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Republican state Sen. Andre Cushing of Hampden, who attended the event at the Nonantum Resort, said LePage made the announcement shortly after 6 p.m.

"There were a lot of cheers," Cushing said by telephone Tuesday evening. "He certainly seems ready to go."

Tuesday's event, the first major fundraiser of LePage's re-election campaign, featured an appearance by former Florida governor and possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush.

It went on without at least one prominent Republican who was listed as a host. Former U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe had previous plans to attend a wedding, her spokesman said Monday.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who also was listed as a host, did attend the event.

Tickets for a private reception beginning at 5 p.m. cost $2,000 per person or $3,000 per couple. Tickets for a general reception that started at 6 p.m. sold for $150.

It wasn't clear how many people attended. The resort's function space holds about 200 people, according to its website.

The Portland Press Herald tried to buy a ticket for the general reception but was told the event was closed to the media.

From the sidewalk in front of the resort, a steady stream of people was seen entering late Tuesday afternoon. Among them were several Republican state lawmakers and two men who lost to LePage in the 2010 Republican primary: Bruce Poliquin and Les Otten. Both were listed as hosts for the event.

Before going inside, Otten said he believes the governor has a strong base of support for re-election.

"There are plenty of people who appreciate his commitment to fiscal responsibility and are willing to forgive his misspeakings," said Otten, who attended the private reception with a companion, Veronica Cross.

Cushing, who attended the general reception, also addressed LePage's recent off-color comments, saying they were a byproduct of a long legislative session that left many frazzled.

On June 20, the governor told WMTW-TV that Democratic state Sen. Troy Jackson is "the first one to give it to the people without providing Vaseline," and mocked Jackson's rural, logging background.

The next day, as his comments drew strong rebukes from Democrats and some Republicans, the governor hinted he may run for Congress next year instead of trying for re-election.

A few days later, after the Legislature overrode his veto of the state budget, LePage told reporters that he would not run for Congress but was unsure whether he would run for re-election as governor.

On Tuesday, he appeared to clear up any uncertainty. His announcement sets up a race that is likely to include Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud and independent Eliot Cutler.

Michaud announced this week that he raised more than $300,000 in the 17 days after he declared that he's exploring a gubernatorial run.

Cutler, who narrowly lost to LePage in 2010 and effectively has been running ever since, has raised $430,000 since the beginning of the year, his campaign spokesman said this week.

LePage had raised $172,000 as of December, according to campaign finance reports. The latest report, covering the first six months of this year, will not be released publicly until July 15.

Neither LePage nor Bush could be seen entering the resort on Tuesday, but guests confirmed that the two were inside, shaking hands and posing for pictures.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Les Otten, who was a candidate for governor in 2010, speaks to members of the media outside the Nonantum Resort in Kennebunkport, where he was attending a fundraiser for Maine Gov. Paul LePage on Tuesday. At left is Veronica Cross.

Carl D. Walsh / Staff Photographer

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Bruce Poliquin, right, a former candidate for governor, chats with other guests outside the Nonantum Resort in Kennebunkport, where he was attending a fundraiser for Maine Gov. Paul LePage on Tuesday.

Carl D. Walsh / Staff Photographer

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Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was among those raising money for Gov. LePage on Tuesday, July 2, 2013, at the governor's first major re-election event.

2007 Staff File Photo

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