GORHAM — After a final day of campaigning that began at 5:30 a.m. in Ellsworth, Shawn Moody arrived at his election night gathering Tuesday with a surprised look on his face.

“Holy mackerel, look at all the people,” Moody said around 8:45 p.m., facing 100 or more people crammed into a function room above the Moody’s Collision Center in Gorham. “Politics, I think, is a lot like Little League. Everyone who helps out is a coach. And I’ve gotten a lot of help during this.”

Though his supporters saw an early TV report showing Moody with just 6 percent of the vote, the tone was upbeat.

The common sentiment among supporters was that if everyone in Maine could meet Moody, they would vote for him.

“Well, I’ve only got about 1.2 million more to meet,” he said.

A political newcomer, Moody decided to run for governor as an independent with a core message of collaborative problem-solving and a focus on small businesses as the economic future of the state.

Moody started Moody’s Collision Centers when he was 17. Now, at 51, he has five locations and 75 workers, who have ownership stakes in the company.

He also ran an auto recycling business, which he sold for millions of dollars.

In the race for governor, Moody never got above single digits in the polls, partly because his cachet as an independent was diluted by another independent, Eliot Cutler, who outspent him by a wide margin and became viewed as a major contender early in the race.

“I’m not naive. I knew that, being in politics for the first time, I probably didn’t have a great chance,” said Moody.

“But you know, all the candidates had good ideas, and no matter who wins, this campaign has brought a lot of ideas that could help the state of Maine.”

While Moody stood outside the polls at Windham High School on Tuesday afternoon with his family, at least two voters said privately that they liked Moody and would have voted for him if they thought he had a chance to win.

During the campaign Moody came across as down to earth, with his thick Maine accent, his folksy anecdotes and his unwillingness to say anything bad about his opponents.

During a debate Saturday, while the other candidates criticized each other about negative ads, Moody recalled some advice his mother had given him.

“She used to say to me, ‘Shawn, you can try hard to grow to be the tallest tree in the forest, or you can take a chain saw and cut all the other trees down,’” said Moody.

“Well, it’s time to put our chain saws down.”

While independents talk about working with all sides and all parties, Moody might have proven during his campaign that he is actually capable of doing that.

When asked earlier in the campaign who she would vote for, other than herself, Democrat Libby Mitchell chose Moody. Mark Ellis, a former chairman of the Maine Republican Party, endorsed Moody.

But will Moody use the good will he built up this year for another run at political office?

His official answer was that he will have to reflect long and hard on what to do next.

Then he quickly pointed out that Mainers elected an independent as governor in the fall of 1974 (James B. Longley) and the fall of 1994 (Angus King.)

“So, depending on what happens with this election, maybe these things come in 20-year cycles and maybe we’ll have an independent governor in 2014,” said Moody, with a grin.

When asked what the best things about his first campaign were, he quickly talked about all the places in Maine he visited and all the people he met.

When asked what the worst parts of campaigning for office were, he seemed stumped.

Was it hard on his family? Did he get sick of making appearances? Did it hurt his business, while he was away so much in the last six months or more?

“I’m an optimistic guy,” he said, “and I really saw this all as an opportunity to make a difference.”

And, as a practical businessman, he was prepared.

His brother Thad began running Moody’s Collision Centers day-to-day about a year ago, when Shawn first considered running for governor.

And his wife and children have worked long hours with him before, he said, especially on the many real estate development projects his company has undertaken.

Though none of his opponents said anything really negative about Moody, he did take issue with people who said he doesn’t have the right experience to be governor.

He has crucial experience, in his mind, because he’s spent more than 30 years dealing with co-workers (what he calls his employees) and customers in a collaborative manner to solve problems.

And to him, that’s exactly what a governor needs to do.

“If you’re the governor, you’ve got thousands of co-workers you can get great ideas from, but you have to give them a safe environment and prove to them their ideas will be heard,” he said.

“So I think I’ve got experience.”

 

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: [email protected]