Blaine House candidates report early campaign fundraising

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AUGUSTA — Democratic candidate Adam Cote is leading the gubernatorial fundraising race, according to campaign finance reports that were being filed Tuesday with the state.

Cote, a Sanford attorney and 20-year veteran of the Maine National Guard, has raised $546,000 since he launched his campaign last April, including $278,000 in donations during the last six months of 2017, his campaign said. Cote has $350,896 in cash on hand.

“It is clear Maine people want change and new leadership in Augusta,” Cote said in a prepared statement Tuesday. “The fact is, we have an economy that has been lagging New England and the country for seven-plus years when it comes to job growth, economic growth and income growth – and rural Maine has been hit the hardest.”

However, Democratic Attorney General Janet Mills raised more money than any candidate in either party during the July through December fundraising period, bringing in $352,575, her campaign said, while noting that the average contribution was $178. She entered the race in July.

Reports filed by Republican candidate Shawn Moody, owner of a chain of auto body shops, showed he had raised $301,705 and had about $260,000 in cash on hand at the beginning of January. The report also showed he contributed $150,000 to his own campaign.

“As an outsider who is not part of the political system in Augusta, I am proud of the fact that we’ve raised substantial support in just the six weeks we had before the filing deadline,” Moody said in a prepared statement Tuesday. “I am even more pleased that our campaign is showing fiscal prudence and responsibility, as a common-sense conservative. It is important to show that we are good stewards of people’s finances.”

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Moody serves on the boards of trustees for both the Maine Community College System and the University of Maine System, positions he was appointed to by the current governor, Republican Paul LePage.

Alan Caron, a Freeport independent, also leaned heavily on his own resources, donating $250,000 to his traditionally financed campaign while collecting another $30,195 from donors.

“As we enter election year when Mainers will pick a new governor to lead us in the years ahead, our campaign is prepared and ready to highlight our message to voters from one end of the state to another,” Caron said in a prepared statement.

On the Democratic side, former Maine Speaker of the House Mark Eves, of North Berwick, said in a prepared statement that he had received donations of $160,000, with more than 90 percent coming from Maine people in amounts of $200 or less. Eves also took aim at LePage.

“We have traveled all around the state listening to Maine voters about their frustrations and about how we can build a better Maine together,” Eves said. “For too long, Gov. LePage has ignored the voters and made it harder for Maine families to get by.

REFLECTIONS OF SERIOUS COMMITMENT

The 23 candidates who have registered to run for the Blaine House faced a deadline of midnight Tuesday to file reports that detail how much money they had raised and spent during the last six months of 2017.

Others in the race include state Senate President Mike Thibodeau, a Republican from Winterport, and former Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew, a Republican from South China.

Mayhew’s report showed she had raised just over $119,000 during the period and a total of $197,838 since she registered as a candidate in June 2017. She reported having $94,670 in cash on hand at the start of January.

Meanwhile, Thibodeau, who announced his campaign in October 2017, reported $100,763 in donations during the period and counted $58,898 in cash on hand.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the support this campaign has received since we launched,” Thibodeau said in a prepared statement. “The hard work is just beginning, but this immediate statewide support reflects exactly what I’ve been seeing on the campaign trail – Maine Republicans are ready for strong, conservative leadership with a purpose.”

Mark Brewer, a political science professor at the University of Maine in Orono, said the campaign finance numbers can be telling, but large sums in early donations do not always equate to votes.

He said the financial reports can help candidates build momentum for their campaigns, and in some cases reflect a serious commitment by the candidates to invest in themselves.

As an example, Brewer pointed to Moody, the Gorham businessman.

“Someone like Shawn Moody, who hasn’t been in all that long, the fact that he has already raised well over $100,000-plus and he is also apparently matching that with a loan of equal or similar amounts from his own personal finances, I think that demonstrates one – he’s got some traction, among at least some part of the donor base, and two – he’s serious about the campaign,” Brewer said. “Serious enough to put up some of his own money.”

MONEY DOESN’T EQUAL VOTES

Conversely, Brewer said candidates who have been in the race for longer periods of time, but hadn’t picked up significant donors, might need to reassess their campaigns. “That can be indicative of either lack of enthusiasm and/or lack of effort, both of which should be concerning to a campaign,” he said.

Still, Brewer said that with nearly six months to go until the June primary, the campaigns are still in relatively early stages. “Money doesn’t equal votes by any means,” he said. “But you can tell some things from these early reports.”

Candidates who are seeking public funding under the Maine Clean Elections Act must meet specific goals.

Among them is Betsy Sweet, a Democratic lobbyist from Hallowell who was the first Clean Elections candidate to file. She reported raising just over $88,000 in qualifying seed donations. She must collect at least 3,200 donations of $5 each from registered Maine voters. Clean Elections candidates can collect up to $200,000 in seed money contributions, but donors can only give a maximum of $100 each. Seed donations can come from any U.S. citizen.

Clean Elections candidates for governor can collect up to $1 million in public financing for a contested primary and a maximum of $2 million for the general election, if they survive their primaries.

Sweet said Tuesday she was about one-third of the way to collecting the required $5 contributions. She said she intends to collect the maximum amount of allowable seed money, which is $200,000.

Sweet noted that 70 percent of her donations came from Maine people.

“I am honored and humbled by the breadth of grass roots support I have received from people from all over the state,” Sweet said in a prepared statement. “My decades of work as an advocate for poor and working families – winning on issues that secure a healthy and fair future for all Maine people – has generated excitement and energy for this campaign.”

Sweet said in an interview that her campaign was on track to disprove criticism that the Clean Elections qualification requirements are too steep to make a publicly financed campaign viable.

Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason of Lisbon, the only Republican candidate in the race seeking public financing, reported collecting just over $31,000 of seed donations of $100 or less.

DOING WHAT’S NECESSARY

Jim Boyle, a former Democratic state senator from Gorham, announced he had raised $134,000, with $54,000 coming from donors and $80,000 coming in the form of a loan he made to his own campaign.

“I want to show voters that I’m committed to them, and I’m willing to make the investment to get Augusta working for working people,” Boyle said, also in a prepared statement. “The economy, the opioid crisis, Medicaid expansion, climate change, we know what the problems are, and it is time we get to work solving them. We don’t need the most money to win. If the grass roots continue to support my campaign, we’ll continue to do what’s necessary to compete.”

State Sen. Mark Dion, D-Portland and also a former Cumberland County sheriff, reported almost $16,000 in total contributions, with about $14,000 of it coming in the last six months of 2017.

Former Bangor Mayor Sean Faircloth, another Democrat in the race running as a Clean Elections candidate, reported raising $640 in seed money contributions during the recently closed reporting period.

Maine Green Independent Party candidate Betsy Marsano filed a report showing she had collected $1,145 in seed money contributions.

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 713-6720 or at:

sthistle@pressherald.com

Twitter: thisdog

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