Independent Alan Caron began campaigning for governor in earnest Thursday morning when he, chief of staff John D’Anieri and D’Anieri’s dog Betty Lou left Fort Kent in a used 32-foot recreational vehicle with his name emblazoned in blue on its side panels.

Caron said he intends to visit every city and town in Maine in his new mobile office that he named “The New Maine Express” before the Nov. 6 election, which would involve visiting 490 towns in just 60 days.

Caron concedes he has trailed opponents in early polls, but said he feels confident that the road campaign can give him the boost in exposure he needs to defeat Democrat Janet Mills, Republican Shawn Moody, and independent Terry Hayes. The four are running to replace Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

A Suffolk University poll conducted in early August had Mills and Moody in a virtual dead heat with 39 percent each. Hayes and Caron trailed at 4 percent and 3 percent, respectively.

“For me, the campaign started this morning in Fort Kent. Now, we have 60 days left. A lot of things can change in a short amount of time,” Caron said during an interview Thursday evening on Portland’s Eastern Prom.

Caron said he hopes voters become disenchanted with the major party candidates as they get to know them better through live debates and advertisements.

“My strategy is to be around if one of them falters and not be too bad,” Caron said.

On Thursday, Caron’s RV, which has about 37,000 miles on it, made stops in Fort Kent, Presque Isle, Bangor and Augusta before ending the day in Portland.

Caron, who lives in Freeport, will be back on the road Friday. He came up with the idea for a mobile campaign while on vacation this summer.

“I said to myself, ‘I am not having fun. I want to have fun doing this.’ So I decided to get out there and shake things up,” Caron said.

Caron said he was partly inspired by Bill Cohen’s 1972 campaign for Maine’s 2nd District. Cohen, a Republican and an underdog at the time, trekked about 600 miles from Maine’s western border to Fort Kent. Cohen won and served three terms before moving on to the U.S. Senate and serving as Secretary of Defense under President Clinton.

At the time, political analysts said “The Walk” showed voters that Cohen cared enough about them to come out and meet them in person. Other candidates modeled Cohen’s strategy, including former Democratic Senate candidate Shenna Bellows, who hiked 350 miles across Maine in 2014 in her unsuccessful bid to unseat Republican Susan Collins.

Caron said he is looking forward to meeting as many potential constituents as possible in the weeks to come as well as debating his opponents.

The first 2018 gubernatorial debate with all four candidates planning to attend is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Monday at the Ramada Hotel and Conference Center in Lewiston.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]