Money race for Blaine House tightens as Maine’s campaign season heats up

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The money race for the Blaine House is tightening as the Democratic and Republican nominees for governor both surpassed $1 million in fundraising – followed closely behind by an independent – headed into the summer campaign season.

Campaign finance figures released Tuesday night show Democratic Attorney General Janet Mills edging out her Republican opponent, businessman Shawn Moody, by less than $20,000. While the Mills campaign said a “software issue” prevented it from posting the full reports on the Maine ethics commission website Tuesday night, the campaign reported raising $1,052,585 as of July 17 and ending the most recent reporting period with $212,596 in available cash.

Moody, meanwhile, had raised $1,038,178 since entering the race last fall and reported $276,809 in “cash on hand” as of July 17. More than $500,000 of Moody’s fundraising total came from his own pocket, according to the reports filed with the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices.

Meanwhile, the two independent candidates for governor – State Treasurer Terry Hayes and economic development consultant Alan Caron – also reported robust fundraising and spending activity as the general election campaign season gears up.

Hayes has received roughly $891,000 through the Maine Clean Election Act, which provides qualifying candidates with public campaign financing in return for their agreement to forgo larger private donations. When combined with $92,131 in small-dollar donations known as “qualifying contributions,” Hayes reported just shy of $1 million in total contributions and ended the campaign reporting period with $476,596 in cash available, according to campaign finance reports also filed Tuesday with the ethics commission.

Also, Hayes’ campaign argues that it is still owed more than $250,000 in public campaign financing that is caught up in a legislative tug-of-war between Democrats, Gov. Paul LePage and his allies in the House Republican caucus.

Caron, meanwhile, has largely self-financed his campaign, which reported raising $534,655 to date.

A consultant and entrepreneur, Caron and his wife, Kristina Egan, had loaned $485,000 to the campaign as of July 17. But Caron also spent significant sums immediately after the June 12 primaries, including a $225,000 television ad buy. As a result, he reported just $1,727 in “cash on hand” at the end of the reporting period.

Campaigns were already touting their campaign – and dissecting their opponents’ fundraising figures – Tuesday night.

Mills’ campaign pointed to the $503,081 that Moody gave to his own campaign as well as $125,000 in donations from political action committees. By contrast, Mills said 99 percent of her campaign’s contributions came from individuals, not PACs.

“Janet is grateful to have the support of thousands of people from all across the state, and she is committed to working with them to move Maine in a new, better direction – not simply offer more of the same,” campaign manager Michael Ambler said in a prepared statement. “Mainers are looking for positive change in their next governor – someone who will grow our economy, reduce the cost of health care and empower the middle class – and this enthusiasm demonstrates that Mainers know Janet is the leader who will deliver it.”

Moody’s campaign did not immediately comment on the campaign finance reports.

Hayes, meanwhile, played up her status as an independent.

“The Maine people are tired of partisan bickering and broken promises,” Hayes said in a prepared statement. “We want a governor who is only beholden to the people, and not to party leaders, special interests or wealthy donors.”

Moody was the clear winner of the June 12 Republican primary, capturing more than 56 percent of the votes in a four-person race. The Gorham businessman has presented himself as the clear successor to Republican Gov. LePage, even hiring the governor’s daughter and some campaign staffers to help with his second bid for the Blaine House.

Mills, on the other hand, had to wait more than a week after the primary to be declared the official Democratic winner. The attorney general held a clear lead over her six Democratic rivals after the polls closed June 12, but the race still had to be decided using ranked-choice voting because she did not receive a majority of votes. Mills was declared the winner June 20 – with 54 percent of the vote – during the fourth ranked-choice tabulation round.

A former senior member of LePage’s staff, Aaron Chadbourne, is also running as a write-in candidate for governor. Chadbourne, who left the LePage administration this year, reported $11,270 in contributions as of July 17.

Tuesday’s filings also offer a glimpse into the final days of the crowded Democratic and Republican primary campaigns. Among the other primary candidates for governor:

Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason of Lisbon Falls, who was the only Republican running as a Clean Election candidate, spent $81,787 in the final two weeks of the campaign – including $4,000 on radio ads days before – and after the primary. He ended the campaign with a balance of zero after receiving $700,000 in public campaign financing plus $36,759 in qualifying contributions.

 Democrat Betsy Sweet, who finished third in the seven-person primary, spent $179,300 in the final weeks of the campaign plus the period before Mills was declared the official winner after the ranked-choice voting tabulation. Overall, Sweet received roughly $700,000 in Clean Election funding plus $99,331 in qualifying contributions.

 Former Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves, who finished just behind Sweet, reported $348,675 in total fundraising for his privately financed campaign and $341,603 in expenditures.

 House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette of Newport, who finished fourth in the four-way Republican primary, reported raising just $27,642 for his gubernatorial bid. Fredette ended the period with $452 in the bank and $356 in outstanding debts.

 Sen. Mark Dion, a Portland Democrat, reported raising $43,815 during his campaign and ending with a cash balance of roughly $89 aside from a $1,600 loan from himself to the campaign.

 Donna Dion, a former Biddeford mayor who is of no relation to Mark Dion, reported $12,192 in contributions for her campaign.

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