AUGUSTA — In the heated three-way race for Maine governor, Republican Paul LePage spent the least amount of money on his re-election bid and still came out on top, according to final campaign finance reports filed this week.
LePage, who won with 48 percent of the vote last month, spent about $1.9 million over the course of the campaign, according to reports that were due Tuesday with the Maine Commission of Governmental Ethics and Election Practices.
Democrat Mike Michaud spent more than $3 million in his unsuccessful bid to defeat the incumbent. Independent Eliot Cutler, who came in a distant third, spent just under $3 million.
Observers say that while the candidate with the most money often wins a traditional race, having three people in the mix changes the dynamic and puts less emphasis on fundraising.
“This was in no way a typical governor’s race,” said Brian Duff, a political science professor at the University of New England. “The typical rules don’t apply, including that whoever has the most money is at an advantage.”
Anthony Corrado, a political science professor at Colby, said that funding from outside groups like the Republican Governors Association, which spent heavily to aid LePage, also are playing a greater role in supplementing a candidate’s funding.
LePage’s campaign used Michaud’s campaign spending to attack the Democrat throughout the race, while painting the governor as frugal.
Michaud, who’s leaving Congress this year after six terms, outraised LePage throughout the race, including in its final weeks. He raised $222,000, according to the report that covers Oct. 22 to Dec. 9. LePage raised just $80,500 in the final reporting period.
Cutler, who earned about 8 percent of the vote, pumped about $1.3 million of his own money into his second gubernatorial attempt. He has about $28,000 in unpaid bills for campaign consulting and other expenses, the report shows. LePage has about $80 in unpaid bills; Michaud has no unpaid expenses.