Independent gubernatorial candidate Alan Caron remains undecided about whether he will remain in the race until Election Day despite an earlier pledge to drop out if he saw no path to victory by mid-October.

Caron is one of four candidates – along with Democrat Janet Mills, Republican Shawn Moody and independent Terry Hayes – running to succeed two-term Republican Gov. Paul LePage in the Blaine House. The limited number of independent polls conducted in the race show Mills and Moody vying for the top spot with Caron and Hayes trailing far behind, typically in the single digits.

While Hayes has promised to stay in the race until Election Day, Caron is under increasing pressure – particularly on social media – to fulfill his earlier pledge to drop out to avoid the split-electorate that lifted LePage to victory with just 38 percent of the vote in 2010. With less than two weeks left until the election, tens of thousands of Maine voters have already cast absentee ballots.

“No decision has been made,” Tom Bell, a spokesman for Caron, said Wednesday.

In March, Caron said that non-viable candidates should “do the right thing” and “put the interests of Maine ahead of themselves” by withdrawing from the race.

“Here’s my pledge to Maine voters: If it is clear by mid-October that I cannot win the election, I will publicly withdraw from the race. Plain and simple,” Caron wrote in a March 23 op-ed in the Portland Press Herald. “That is exactly what I publicly urged Eliot Cutler to do during the 2014 campaign and privately recommended to Libby Mitchell four years earlier.”

RANKED-CHOICE DOESN’T APPLY

While ranked-choice voting supporters had hoped the system would be used to help choose a governor with broader public support, voters will not have the ranked-choice option when casting ballots in the gubernatorial race because of constitutional conflicts. That is renewing concerns among Democratic and left-leaning voters that the two independents could have a “spoiler effect” by siphoning off votes from Mills, thereby leading to a Moody victory.

A business owner and economic development consultant, Caron announced his candidacy last November and has released some of the most detailed policy proposals of any candidate. In debates, the Freeport resident highlighted his background rising from poverty to prosperity and his experience, while calling out LePage’s divisive governing style.

But Caron’s self-financed campaign has yet to catch fire as Mills and Moody, the national parties and interest groups dump millions of dollars into the race.

Caron’s recent posts on Facebook are filled with comments from individuals citing that pledge as they urge him to withdraw.

In 2010, LePage defeated Cutler 38 percent to 36 percent with Democrat Libby Mitchell pulling in 19 percent. Four years later, some people accused Cutler of playing the spoiler by drawing votes away from Democratic nominee Mike Michaud, who lost to LePage, 43 percent to 48 percent.

Bell said there was no timeline for a decision and that Caron was campaigning in Biddeford-Saco on Wednesday while also preparing for Thursday night’s televised debate on WMTW.

Maine Political Report



But in an email message to supporters earlier this week, Caron acknowledged the spoiler concerns when he wrote about the “many heartfelt notes, emails and phone messages over the last few weeks” from people urging him to “join forces with another candidate.”

“Throughout four decades of working to make Maine a better place, I have tried to do two things,” Caron wrote. “One is to promote a positive, optimistic and inclusive vision of what this state can become. The other is to put the people of this state ahead of myself or any group. People who know me, or have worked with me through the years, understand and trust that I will do the right thing for Maine, as best I can, as I always have.”

‘CONSERVATIVES FOR HAYES’

Some also have called on Hayes to withdraw for the same “spoiler” reasons. But Hayes, who is Maine’s state treasurer, has no intention of dropping out.

In fact, her campaign is pointing to three October polls showing Mills with an 8-percentage point lead over Moody as proof that “Moody does not have a path to victory.” They have even begun distributing “Conservatives for Hayes” signs in recent days, hoping to cut into Moody’s support within the Republican base.

“We are hearing from a lot of Republicans and right-leaning independents who are trying to figure out what to do,” Hayes campaign manager Kyle Bailey said. “Maine’s next governor will either be Janet Mills or Terry Hayes, and that is the choice Maine voters face.”

Hayes is the only candidate still in the race to utilize the Clean Election system that provides gubernatorial candidates up to $2 million in public campaign financing in exchange for forgoing private contributions. She has run a positive campaign, pledging to bridge the partisan divide in Augusta.

Both the Mills and Moody campaigns expressed confidence headed into the final two-week stretch.

“Shawn Moody is focused on meeting as many voters as possible before election day and selling his message of job creation and economic growth,” campaign spokeswoman Lauren LePage said in a statement. “We are confident that as the only candidate in the race with over 40 years of executive experience creating jobs and growing Maine’s economy, Maine people will agree that we cannot turn Augusta back over to the politicians.”

“Janet is the only candidate prepared to lead Maine in a new, better direction,” Mills spokesman Scott Ogden said in a statement. “The voters will ultimately decide this race, and in these last critical weeks Janet is focused on them and talking about how we can work together to ensure that Maine people have affordable, high-quality health care and a strong public school system for every Maine child. That is how we will win this race.”

MANY BALLOTS ALREADY CAST

Ballots for the Nov. 6 elections already have been printed and sent to local clerks, who in turn are distributing them to voters interested in casting absentee ballots. That means any candidate who withdraws at this point will still appear on the ballot but votes for them will not be counted, the Maine Secretary of State’s Office said.

Local election staff will include notes with any future absentee ballots notifying voters about any withdrawals. Additionally, clerks will post notices at the polling places on Election Day if any candidates drop out of the race.

Furthermore, more than 40,000 Mainers already had cast votes via absentee ballot as of Monday. State law does not allow voters who already have cast absentee ballots to obtain a new sheet if a candidate withdraws.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 791-6312 or at:

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