Garrett Mason vows to put Maine first as he enters race for governor

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Sen. Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon, announces his intention to run for governor at a rally in Lewiston.

LEWISTON — Hoping to become Maine’s youngest elected governor, state Sen. Majority Leader Garrett Mason told a crowd of nearly 200 supporters Thursday that “it’s time to seize the moment, rise up and fight for Maine.”

He promised to press for lower taxes, smaller government, a better education system and a revised process to bring a referendum so the state will cease to be “a proving ground for crazy ideas” brought forward by “the fringe left.”

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The Lisbon Falls lawmaker, 32, spoke at the Royal Oak Room at Iron Horse Court in the former train station at the start of Bates Street to a broad array of family, friends and people from the close-knit town where he grew up.

The formal announcement of the long-expected entry into the race was planned to happen a few weeks ago, but the candidate’s mother, state Rep. Gina Crafts Mason, died suddenly while in the middle of inviting friends to attend the announcement.

Rick Mason, Garrett’s father, said that he and his wife heard several months ago that their son intended to run for governor. They were “just beaming about it,” he said.

Garrett Mason said he was sure his mother was “here cheering on her little boy.”

“Mom, I will not quit. I will fight for your dream of a better Maine,” he told the audience.

Mason joined a Republican field that includes two other hopefuls: House Minority Leader Ken Fredette and Mary Mayhew, former commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services.

But looming over the GOP primary is the possibility that U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who has logged two decades in the nation’s capital, might decide to run for governor. As the state’s most popular and best-known politician, her presence would instantly transform the race. Collins is expected to announce her intentions soon.

Mason said even if Collins gets into the contest, he’s going the distance. But, he said, he hopes she’ll stay in Washington where she is “very needed.” Mason said that when he’s governor, he hopes she’s still there to give him advice and help.

There are a number of Democratic candidates, including Attorney General Janet Mills and former House Speaker Mark Eves. Also in the running are several minor party or independent contenders, including state Treasurer Terry Hayes.

Each party will choose its standard-bearer next year for the November 2018 general election. LePage, who is in his second term, is not allowed to seek re-election.

Mason, who works well across the aisle despite his ideological differences with most Democrats, said that in the seven years since LePage won office, the state has “made incredible strides” by reforming welfare, cutting tax rates and straightening out government finances.

But, he said, “the work is not done. In fact, in many ways it’s just beginning.”

Mason said Augusta has too many politicians who bring “pride and arrogance” to the task of making Maine a better place to live. He said the sad truth is that Maine’s “The Way Life Should Be” slogan “has become the motto of a forgotten era.”

It’s time to lower the tax burden on families and to pare government to make it “as inconsequential as possible in our everyday lives.”

If Mason, who cannot seek re-election after serving four terms in the Senate, wins, he would be slightly younger on Inauguration Day than Maine’s fifth governor, Albion Parris of Portland. There was, however, an even younger governor, David Dunn of Portland, who served without facing the ballot box for three days in 1844 at age 32 after his predecessor resigned.

Mason, an evangelical, is a champion of the religious right in Maine following his successful effort in 2011 to allow charter schools in Maine. He helped organize a Donald Trump rally in Lisbon shortly before the 2016 election after his preferred candidate, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, fell short in the primary.

Though he’s opposed to the state’s Clean Election program as a legislator, Mason plans to sign on to it as a candidate because it gives gubernatorial hopefuls who meet its terms $1.2 million in taxpayer funding for contested primaries.

Raised in Lisbon Falls, Mason is a 2003 graduate of Calvary Christian Academy of Turner and holds a bachelor’s degree in management and marketing from Pensacola Christian College in Florida.

After college, he worked for the Portland Sea Dogs baseball team, then for the Lewiston Maineiacs hockey team, first as its public relations director and ultimately as its director of administration. He works now with Keller Williams Realty in Portland.

scollins@sunjournal.com

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