The two women who are running for governor looked for ways to shore up support Friday, with Rosa Scarcelli attending a luncheon for Franco-Americans and Senate President Elizabeth Mitchell highlighting her service on the issue of affordable housing.

Both women are seeking the Democratic nomination in a four-way race on Tuesday, the first step in their bids to become Maine’s first female governor. Also running are former Attorney General Steve Rowe and former Conservation Commissioner Patrick McGowan.

The only poll released analyzing the Democratic race shows a large percentage of undecided voters — perhaps 60 percent.

Scarcelli, a businesswoman from Portland, shook more than 200 hands as she went table to table at La Rencontre, a monthly event at the Franco-American Heritage Center in Lewiston. Although luncheon rules ask all who attend to attempt to converse in French, Scarcelli didn’t try to impress the native speakers.

Instead, she smiled, posed for pictures and worked the room like a seasoned politician, a description she has worked hard to avoid throughout the campaign. Scarcelli has never held elective office, and uses that fact to separate herself from her opponents.

Mitchell, who began legislative service in 1974, attended a closed-door meeting Friday with U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and other key players in the affordable-housing movement.

After the meeting, she emerged encouraged that the Obama administration is taking the problem of homelessness and affordable housing seriously.

Though Mitchell, 69, and Scarcelli, 40, have little in common, they do share a background in affordable housing.

Mitchell was director of the Maine State Housing Authority from 1986 to 1990.

Scarcelli, chief executive of Stanford Management, an affordable-housing company with properties in 14 counties in Maine, reminded people at the luncheon in Lewiston that she runs one of Maine’s largest women-owned companies.

She got a warm reception from many of those she greeted, with some promising to vote for her on Tuesday and others saying they have seen her on TV.

A couple of times, she found herself explaining why she’s not too young to be governor. “I’ve been here my whole life,” she said at one table.

A man answered: “That’s not much.”

Scarcelli said: “I’m 40.”

At another point, she told someone who questioned her about her age that the late Edmund Muskie was 40 when he was elected governor.

A couple of weeks ago, Scarcelli began running radio ads in French — spoken by Connie Cote, who hosts a radio program in French in Lewiston-Auburn.

Friday’s event in Portland — the grand opening of Florence House, which provides housing for homeless women — didn’t give Mitchell much of a chance to campaign. Rowe attended the event as well, though neither was on the agenda to address the crowd of more than 200.

Mitchell said she played a key role in helping to secure more than $400,000 in state funds to help build the facility.

“Housing has certainly always been part of my platform,” she said.


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