AUGUSTA — Wearing a city of Auburn jacket, former Mayor John Jenkins on Friday filed his intention to run as an independent, write-in candidate for governor.
He took out nomination papers at the Secretary of State's Office as a few supporters watched and took pictures.
Jenkins, 58, acknowledged that getting elected without his name on the ballot, without a party and without money would be a tall order.
But, with his ever-present smile, he said Friday that he's seen enough support in recent weeks to convince him to run.
“I was planning on sitting this one out," said Jenkins, who works as a motivational speaker. "I looked at my finances and said no.”
Jeff Benedict, a marketing businessman from Winslow, suggested Jenkins should ask people on Facebook whether they would support him in a run for governor. Last month Jenkins said that if he got 5,000 fans on his page, he'd run.
As of Friday, Jenkins had some 2,700 people on the "Jenkins for governor" Facebook page. Another 2,300 people signed unofficial petitions saying they would support his campaign, Jenkins said.
Supporters have circulated those petitions in communities and at events. On Thursday, Jenkins spoke at a Waterville-area senior citizens club and said he was moved by the level of positive response. On Sunday, he flipped pancakes at the annual Harley-Davidson Toy Run. Many came through and signed their names saying he should run.
“We have notebooks of people's names,” Jenkins said.
With those 5,000-plus names, “I'm hoping I can make a strong enough petition to those sponsoring what debates are left” to allow him to participate with the other gubernatorial candidates.
Jenkins said the campaign hasn't cost anything, so far. "I'm really a nontraditional candidate,” he said. Supporters are contributing what they can. Some are good at building websites; others say they're good at Facebook. “Everybody's contributing,” Jenkins said.
He quoted Benedict, saying the Internet can become “the great equalizer for the little guy.” Because of of the Benedict family's skill, “they gave me a chance to get my message out.”
Jenkins said he's like most Mainers, "struggling to keep my head above water. Policies I put in place would be truly for those middle-income Mainers.”
He chose Friday's date to take out papers for office because it was the 223rd anniversary of the signing of the Constitution, which set limits on government's power over the people. He said his campaign is “not about money and influence. It's about the people.”
As governor, he said he'd work to lower taxes, limit government spending, limit the time people could be on welfare, and create more affordable health care by promoting healthier lifestyles.
One of his top priorities would be “reminding citizens of Maine who we really are.” Instead of gloom and doom and “looking at what we don't have,” he'd work at “unlocking the potential in every one of us.”
Jenkins attempted to run for governor in 2002 and 2006 but fell short of support.
He has served as mayor of both Lewiston and Auburn, serving two terms in each city. Three years ago, he wasn't running for re-election as Auburn mayor when a tide of write-in votes swept him into office.