AUGUSTA – Republican state lawmakers and former candidates for governor rallied at the State House on Tuesday in support of Shawn Moody, the party’s pick to be its candidate in the 2018 governor’s race.

With Maine Democrats still awaiting the results of their primary race as ballots were being counted and retabulated in Maine’s first statewide ranked-choice election, Moody told supporters he intended to carry on the legacy and policies of outgoing Republican Gov. Paul LePage. The auto-body entrepreneur from Gorham won 56 percent of the vote June 12, easily defeating three rivals for the nomination.

Moody also responded to a question about the Trump administration’s controversial policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the southern U.S. border, defending the president’s efforts to secure the border and saying he supports having a deterrent.

All three of Moody’s primary challengers – Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon, House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, and former Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew – said they were solidly behind Moody. State Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, who left the race before the primary election, also spoke in support of Moody.

LePage attended the event, too, although he did not address the crowd of supporters, including dozens of Republican state lawmakers.

Moody, who has recruited LePage’s daughter and other former LePage staffers to work on his campaign, spoke glowingly of LePage and suggested the outgoing governor’s policies had steadied the state’s economy while putting state government’s “fiscal house in order.”

Moody, a relative newcomer to the Republican party who ran as an independent for governor against LePage in 2010, also praised Republicans in the Legislature for backing LePage’s policies and urged the faithful to work to elect Republicans to the Legislature. Moody joined the Republican Party in October 2017, just weeks before he announced he would be running for governor.

“The one thing I said throughout the campaign was if the people who do the work take time out to go vote, I think we are going to be in good shape,” Moody said. “You saw by the results of the election, the people that do the work voted and they sent a clear message to the rest of the people in Maine, that the people that do the work are tired of the people who don’t do the work telling us how to do the work.”

Moody said he didn’t have a preference about which Democratic candidate he might face in November and wasn’t trying to calculate who the winner will be, or which one would be the easiest to defeat.

“I feel like we have a strong message for the people of Maine,” Moody said. “The people of Maine are tired of getting by. They want to get ahead.”

Moody said as governor he would use all the tools and resources at his disposal to help people get ahead.

When asked to comment on the current Trump administration policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the southern border, Moody said some of the tactics being used were symbolic.

“We got to look at deterrents,” Moody said. “People can debate what’s the right tactic to use, but I am 100 percent behind the president in terms of securing the border, but that’s up to the Congress and the president to do.”

He said one of the reason the U.S. had such border security issues was that politicians had ignored the problem for far too long.

“I call it look-the-other-way leadership,” Moody said. “They look the other way and they think these problems are going to go away and they don’t.”

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