A former chairman of the Maine Republican Party said today he has endorsed independent candidate Shawn Moody in the race for Maine governor.

Mark Ellis, of Augusta, who most recently served as state GOP chairman from 2007 to 2009, said he would support Moody in the five-candidate race because “I want us to rise above our frustration and anger and to work together on the challenges ahead.”

“Now more than ever, I believe Maine needs a leader who can bridge philosophical differences and harvest the best ideas and solutions regardless of where they came from,” Ellis said in a statement. “Maine needs a governor who has the ability to listen to others and whose responses aren’t constrained or clouded by nationally-driven political parties or special interest groups.”

Ellis also took an apparent jab at Paul LePage, the Republican nominee, who has a well-known personal story of rising above poverty and homelessness as a child.

“We need a leader who hasn’t been hardened by the hard knocks of a humble beginning,” Ellis said, “but one who has been polished by adversity and inspires others with their experiences.”

In an interview, however, Ellis denied he was referring to LePage and said he was referring to Moody.

The LePage campaign quickly responded today, noting that Ellis had previously worked for the gubernatorial campaign of Steve Abbott during the Republican primary race. Abbott, who has since become athletic director at the University of Maine, endorsed LePage after the seven-man primary contest.

“It is understandable that his loss was painful,” Brent Littlefield, spokesman for the LePage campaign, said of Ellis. “Mark’s decision is one more indication that Paul LePage is not running to be one of the power brokers in Augusta; he is running to change Augusta and return it to the people.”

Moody’s campaign also announced the endorsement of former state Rep. Gary Moore, R-Standish.

Ellis conceded that his decision to turn his back on the Republican gubernatorial nominee was “extremely difficult,” because “I’m closing a lot of doors for myself personally.” Ellis has been a GOP activist for about 16 years and worked on the campaigns of Republican U.S. senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and former Rep. James Longley.

According to recent polls, Moody’s chances of winning the election are slim. In a recent survey commissioned by MaineToday Media, Moody is estimated to attract 4 percent of the vote, compared with 38 percent for LePage, 25 percent for Democrat Libby Mitchell, 11 percent for independent Eliot Cutler, and 1 percent for independent Kevin Scott.

Never-the-less, Ellis thinks Moody has a shot. After a live television debate on Saturday night at the University of Maine at Augusta, Moody landed several folksy and humorous lines that portrayed him as a regular guy up against establishment candidates.

“People saw him as a legitimate candidate and someone they see in their own reflection,” Ellis said.