What you should know
First, let’s cut through some of the spin: Initial fundraising success found by some of the political newcomers has slowed, according to the more recent campaign finance reports that calculated contributions from Jan. 1 to April 20.
Those receiving public funding are ahead of the rest in terms of cash on hand, but only because they haven’t had a chance to spend it all yet. Surprises on the Republican side would be that Bill Beardsley and Paul LePage are only behind publicly funded Peter Mills in available funds.
The most important factor for all gubernatorial candidates at this point is their cash on hand. It’s what they have available to spend from this moment forward.
Here’s that breakdown, according to their state filings:
$394,000 – Peter Mills**
$236,000 – Bill Beardsley
$189,000 – Paul LePage
$150,000 – Bruce Poliquin*
$87,000 — Steve Abbott
$31,000 – Matt Jacobson
$26,000 – Les Otten*
$394,000 – Pat McGowan**
$377,000 – Libby Mitchell**
$132,000 – Steve Rowe
$28,000 – Rosa Scarcelli
$98,000 – Eliot Cutler*
* These candidates have already donated or loaned extensively to their own campaigns, so this cash-on-hand number isn’t as significant. They’ve demonstrated they basically have whatever amount of their own money they are willing to spend.
** These are the candidates running with public funding. Peter Mills has already received the primary maximum, $600,000, because of matching funds triggered by Otten’s spending. Mills is not allowed to raise any more, so for his campaign, this is it. For the Democrats, Mitchell and McGowan received $24,000 in matching funds on top of their $400,000 public funding allotments because of spending by Rowe. We’ll have to wait and see if either Rowe or Scarcelli triggers more matching funds before the June 8 primary.
Behind the numbers
Here’s a quick look “behind the numbers” of each candidate.
Bill Beardsley and his wife donated $250,000 to his own campaign during this reporting period and made another $8,000 in in-kind contributions.
Matt Jacobson made $5,800 in in-kind contributions to his campaign and loaned himself $20,000 on April 15.
Paul LePage and his wife loaned his campaign a total of $91,000 between April 14-16. LePage has about $2,500 in unpaid debt.
Les Otten made about $8,000 in in-kind contributions in the most recent reporting period and loaned his campaign $700,000. He previously had loaned $586,000 to his campaign, so in total, he has loaned himself about $1.2 million.
Bruce Poliquin donated $100,000 to his own campaign on April 20 and made about $66,000 in in-kind contributions during the most recent reporting period.
Libby Mitchell has about $35,000 in unpaid debt.
Steve Rowe has about $20,500 in unpaid debt.
Rosa Scarcelli loaned her own campaign $10,000 on March 23.
Eliot Cutler donated $240,000 to his own campaign during this reporting period and made another about $14,500 in in-kind contributions. His campaign also reported about $17,000 in unpaid debt.
For now, Otten wins for most spent, at $1.3 million. He only raised about $100,000; the rest he loaned his campaign.
Beardsley and LePage, both favorites of the more conservative end of the Republican Party continuum, have enough money at this point to be serious contenders. But if neither candidate succeeds in expanding upon their base, they might end up without enough votes to win the primary because they are fighting for support in the same conservative voting bloc.
Poliquin and Otten aren’t to be counted out because each has vast personal wealth and they have shown they are willing to spend it on campaigning. Thanks to early television advertising, Otten may just have some of the best name recognition for Republicans among the general public, though it may not be enough to get him through the primary.
Abbott may just be the most “traditionally” financed candidate on the Republican side – he’s not using public funds, but he hasn’t donated to his own campaign or made personal loans to it. If he can use his (free) insider knowledge and experience on how to run a successful campaign in Maine and continue strong fundraising, he also could emerge as the nominee.
The Democrats are also without a strong frontrunner, though a recent poll released by the Mitchell campaign put her on top. The public funding for Mitchell and McGowan puts them on even footing and both likely have stronger name recognition than either Rowe or Scarcelli, because of their past campaigns and positions in state government.
Rowe has strong name recognition among those active in state government, but because Maine’s attorney general is not elected in a statewide race, his experience there doesn’t carry as much name recognition as it would in other states.
Scarcelli definitely appears to be the underdog on the Democratic side. The party faithful don’t know her because she’s new to the scene. She’s working hard to stake out policy positions that set her apart from the other nominees, but that’s a strategy that would work better in a general election rather than a primary.
The state party conventions are coming up, with Republicans gathering in Portland next week and the Democrats in Lewiston two weeks after that, so there’s still plenty of politicking to be done before the primary.