Democrat Adam Cote and Republican Shawn Moody, both vying to earn their parties’ nomination for governor, have built strong fundraising leads with about a month to go before the June primary.

Cote, an attorney, businessman and veteran from Springvale, raised more than $278,000 between Jan. 1 and April 24 – the most recent campaign finance reporting period – and had $466,000 in the bank.

That puts him ahead of Attorney General Janet Mills, who has raised $221,000 so far this year and has $279,000 left to spend, and former House Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick, who raised $145,000 for the current period but had just $87,000 left.

Moody, a businessman from Gorham, also has more than $400,000 in cash on hand, after raising $289,000 during the most recent period. However, of the $575,000 he’s raised since announcing his candidacy last year, $300,000 has come from the candidate himself.

Moody has a comfortable cash lead over former state health commissioner Mary Mayhew, who’s raised $100,000 this year and has $83,000 to spend, and House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette of Newport, who has raised just $6,172 since Jan. 1 and has $3,284 left.

The two Maine Clean Elections candidates in the race – Democrat Betsy Sweet of Hallowell and Republican Garrett Mason of Lisbon Falls – each have benefited greatly from public financing. Clean elections candidates who raise enough seed money through small private contributions can qualify for up to $1 million in public financing for the primary.

Sweet has collected more than 4,000 small contributions and has received nearly $500,000 so far. She has $324,000 left to spend.

Mason had received $36,000 in seed money plus $400,000 in public financing and has $210,000 in cash left.

Both Sweet and Mason said they had qualified to receive another $150,000 in funds, which was not included on their recent filings.

The finance reports, which were due at midnight Tuesday, can be a barometer of which candidate has traction among primary voters. No public polling has been done on either side.

“It certainly looks good for Adam Cote and also Shawn Moody, with a caveat that a lot of that is his own money,” University of Maine political scientist Mark Brewer said Wednesday. “I think Mills’ numbers look positive, too, and Betsy Sweet and Garrett Mason are both in good shape with their public financing.”

“Mary Mayhew’s numbers have to be disappointing, especially if people see her as a front-runner. Fredette, is he even running for governor? It’s almost like he’s not putting any effort. That was the biggest wow. Mark Eves, I think, has to be disappointed as well.”

There are seven Democrats and four Republicans whose names will be on the June 12 ballot.

Five independents also have qualified for the 2018 governor’s race, including Alan Caron of Freeport and Terry Hayes, former lawmaker and current state treasurer, of Buckfield, who is a clean election candidate.

Among Democrats, former Cumberland County Sheriff Mark Dion raised $16,000 but had only $4,483 left. Donna Dion, former Biddeford mayor, had $237 in cash after raising $1,000 this year.

Diane Russell, a former House member from Portland, did not file her report with the Maine Ethics Commission, nor did J. Martin Vachon, of Mariaville, who has run unsuccessfully three times before, once as a Republican and twice as an independent.

On the spending side, Republicans Mason and Mayhew have both spent more than $200,000 to date, with Moody next at $166,000.

Cote, with $338,000 so far, has spent the most of any candidate, although he was the first to announce his candidacy. He also became the first candidate in either party to purchase television ad time, which is one of the priciest but most effective tools for candidates at this stage.

Mills has spent almost $300,000 to date and Eves has eclipsed $215,000. Sweet had spent $175,000.

Cote, in a statement, called the support “humbling.” Mills touted her fundraising among voters in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, which voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and leans much more conservative.

Sweet’s campaign touted her status as the only clean elections candidate among Democrats, which frees her from accepting “corporate and lobbyist money,” her campaign manager, Stephanie Clifford, said in a statement.

Moody’s campaign strategist, Brent Littlefield – best known for helping elect current governor Paul LePage twice, highlighted his candidate’s high cash balance – although much of that came from a personal loan – and dinged Mason for spending big.

Brewer said since both nominations are up for grabs, he expects money to continue flowing until primary day.

“In order to do ad buys and staff phone banks and other stuff, you need to have the money,” he said. “There are going to be things that some candidates do that others just won’t be able to.”

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

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Twitter: PPHEricRussell

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