AUGUSTA (AP) — It’s hard to stand out when you’re one in the pack of candidates running for governor. Some have taken to the airwaves to tell their story as the June 8 primaries approach. Others highlight their initiatives, and their fundraising skills. This week, one candidate announced he had a campaign theme song.
But it turns out getting noticed is only part of the equation. What it really comes down to at this stage is being able to identify supporters, corral them and get them to vote.
“Organization is the No. 1 determinate of who’s going to get the nomination,” said Tony Payne, a former Republican congressional hopeful who now heads the Alliance for Maine’s Future.
The race to succeed Democratic Gov. John Baldacci, who’s completing his second term, features seven Republicans, four Democrats and nine nonparty independents. But the emphasis now is on the primary races in which the two major parties will choose their nominees for the Nov. 2 general election.
“I haven’t seen such an open year since pre-1994. Nobody has it clinched,” said Dennis Bailey, who’s working for Democratic candidate Rosa Scarcelli and helped independent Angus King win the Blaine House election 16 years ago.
The competition for supporters is intense, given the small anticipated turnout; 20 percent of eligible voters is a good turnout in primaries. Campaigns are scouring voter registration lists to find out who’s likely to vote so they can be contacted. They also are using social networking tools such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube as never before to round up volunteers and reach out to potential supporters.
Identifying where votes are “is a huge part of a primary election. It always has been, always will be,” said Jim Mitchell, who in 1994 lost in a congressional primary to Baldacci and is now supporting Pat McGowan for governor.
That axiom takes on more meaning when you look at the numbers, says Mitchell.
In the more crowded Republican race, for example, a candidate could win with 13,500 votes given the likely turnout.
Geography plays a role in drawing voters to a candidate. In the Democratic race, John Richardson’s decision to drop out last week limits the competitors in southern Maine’s Cumberland County area to Scarcelli and Steve Rowe, who are both from Portland. Elizabeth “Libby” Mitchell, the state Senate president from Vassalboro, has close ties to state workers, who are concentrated in central Maine’s capital area.
The fourth Democrat, McGowan, emphasizes his ties to northern Maine by pointing to work he’s done to open land to outdoor sports enthusiasts, and his strong showings in 1990 and 1992 races for the 2nd District congressional seat. McGowan’s also taken an offbeat tact to draw attention to himself by launching a campaign song.
Richardson, of Brunswick, had close ties to organized labor groups, and it’s an open question where they’ll concentrate their support now that he’s gone.
“I think labor’s going to look for a home and the candidates are going to try to be that home,” said Payne. Bailey notes that some constituencies that can provide punch to a campaign are likely to remain on the sidelines until after a nominee is chosen, or at least until a clear front-runner emerges.
Among the Republicans, Steve Abbott is trying to forge a bond with the politically aware hunting-fishing crowd. He also walks into the campaign with ties to a broad base of potential supporters nurtured through his years as U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ chief of staff.
Peter Mills benefits from the network he’s already built in his 2006 run for governor and like fellow senator Mitchell, connections he’s made in his long career in and around state government. Matt Jacobson, who’s in the business of drawing business to Maine, as CEO of Maine and Company, is seen as making a bid to middle-aged entrepreneurial types.
Waterville Mayor Paul LePage, who has surprised many observers with the breadth of his support, has made a campaign presence at tea party gatherings, emphasizing his bid for conservative votes.
LePage’s ability to draw conservative votes detracts from candidate Bill Beardsley’s base of social conservatives. But Beardsley, the former Husson College president, may also get a bump by being the lone GOP candidate living in the Bangor-Ellsworth area.
Like Les Otten, Bruce Poliquin has had access to personal funds to loan or give their campaigns, giving both the ability to introduce themselves to voters through paid television advertising so they can connect with them in appeals for support later in the campaign.
Maine gubernatorial candidates at a glance
NAME: Patrick McGowan
AGE: 54, born April 10, 1956
EDUCATION: University of Maine at Farmington 1976.
CAREER: Maine House of Representatives 1981-1990; Democratic nominee for U.S. House in Maine’s 2nd District in 1990 and 1992; regional administrator for the U.S Small Business Administration 1993-2001; Maine Conservation Department commissioner 2003-2010.
FAMILY: Lives in Hallowell with his wife, Kirsten, and toddler Amelia. He has three grown children, Brady, Kate, and Chelsea.
QUOTE: “Form an idea, develop a plan, take the action, achieve the results.”
NAME: Elizabeth “Libby” Mitchell
AGE: 69, born June 22, 1940
EDUCATION: Furman University 1962; University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, master’s in English, 1965; University of Maine School of Law 1996.
CAREER: Maine House of Representatives 1976-1984, 1991-1998; Maine Senate 2005-2010; first woman in America to serve as both the president of the senate and the speaker of the house. Also served three terms on the Vassalboro Board of Selectmen, serves on the board of Maine General Health, Maine Coalition for Excellence in Education, New England Board of Higher Education and Jobs for Maine Graduates.
FAMILY: Lives in Vassalboro with her husband Jim. Parents of four children, J. Elizabeth, Will, Charlie and Emily and six grandchildren.
QUOTE: “I get results. I know how to bring people to the table and compromise without giving up their principles. Maine is still in good shape.”
NAME: G. Steven “Steve” Rowe
AGE: 57, born April 23, 1953
EDUCATION: Degree in engineering and mathematics from the U.S. Military Academy, master of business administration from University of Utah, University of Maine School of Law.
CAREER: Served as active duty military officer six years, worked in the insurance and semiconductor industries for 16 years; served in Maine House of Representatives 1993-2000, final term as speaker. Maine attorney general 2001-2008.
FAMILY: Lives in Portland with his wife Amanda. Father of four grown children, Angela, Chris, Robert and Lindsay.
QUOTE: “Maine is facing a lot of tough challenges. But we also have tremendous opportunities. I’m running for governor to unleash the full potential of Maine, to transform our state’s economy, and to give our kids a great future, right here at home.”
NAME: Rosa Scarcelli
AGE: 40. Born Dec. 13, 1969.
EDUCATION: Attended University of Maine and graduated from Bowdoin College, where she was named a James Bowdoin scholar.
CAREER: Worked as page and intern for Sen. George Mitchell. In 1999, founded a real estate management company; six years later took over what is now Stanford Management, a provider of affordable housing.
FAMILY: Lives in Portland with husband Thom Rhodes and three children.
QUOTE: “Together we can move Maine forward.”
NAME: Steven W. “Steve” Abbott
AGE: 47, born on Aug. 16, 1962.
EDUCATION: Degree in history from Harvard, where he was a football captain; graduated from the University of Maine School of Law in 1991.
CAREER: Practiced law at Pierce Atwood in Portland. For the past 12 years, chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.
FAMILY: Lives in Portland with his wife, Amy, and their two children, Hannah and Henry.
QUOTE: “My campaign is about transforming Maine from a state with a reputation for high taxes, low wages, and an unwelcoming business climate to the best place in the nation to do business.”
NAME: William “Bill” Beardsley
AGE: 67, born on July 4, 1942
EDUCATION: Degree in economics Earlham College; Ph.D. Johns Hopkins University from the College of Geography and Environmental Engineering.
CAREER: President of Husson University 1987-2009; Bar Harbor Banking & Trust Co. real estate investments and branch manager 1985-86; State of Alaska, Department of Commerce and Economic Development 1982-85; executive director Center for Entrepreneurship Development and Associate Professor of Natural Resources Management, Alaska Pacific University 1981-82; vice president Bangor Hydro Electric Co. 1976-81; assistant to the president, Green Mountain Power Co. 1973-76; aide to Gov. Deane Davis of Vermont 1970-73; assistant to dean of agriculture and assistant professor, University of Vermont 1969-70.
FAMILY: Lives in Ellsworth with his wife Betsy. They have three children, Michael, James and Laura.
QUOTE: “My vision for Maine is a Maine built on a world class economy, founded in our natural resources and people, our strategic location, a competitive advantage in energy and business climate, unleashed entrepreneurial spirit, and quality communities for growing up and growing old, for excellent education opportunities, for personal independence.”
NAME: Matt Jacobson
AGE: 49. Born Feb. 4, 1961.
EDUCATION: Graduate of U.S. Naval Academy, master of business administration from Chapman University.
CAREER: Since 2006, he has been president and CEO of Portland-based Maine & Company, which aims to attract businesses to Maine. Assistant vice president at Canadian National Railways in Chicago from 2000-2005; president and CEO of St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad in Auburn from 1996-2000. He worked for CSX railroad company from 1991-1996. Pilot in the U.S. Air Force 1984-1991, serving in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
FAMILY: Lives in Cumberland with wife, Kate, and two children, Hank and Maggie.
QUOTE: “Maine can be a place where hard work is rewarded with opportunity, where our children can realize their dreams and our people have hope.”
NAME: Paul LePage
AGE: 61. Born Oct. 9, 1948.
EDUCATION: Degree in business administration, Husson College, 1971; master’s in business administration, University Of Maine, 1975.
CAREER: General manager Marden’s department stores 1996-present; LePage & Kasevich Inc. 1983-96; Forster Mfg. Co. 1982-83; Scott Paper Co. 1979-82; Arthurette Lumber in Canada 1972-79. Mayor of Waterville, 2003-present.
FAMILY: Lives in Waterville with wife Ann. Five grown children.
QUOTE: “I am running for governor because, as most of us born or raised in the state, I love Maine. Its people, communities, businesses and natural beauty are like no other place on Earth.”
NAME: S. Peter Mills
AGE: 66. Born June 3, 1943.
EDUCATION: Graduated from Harvard with degree in English 1965; University of Maine School of Law 1973, graduated No. 2 in the class.
CAREER: U.S. Navy 1965-70. Attorney in Portland 1973-82; owner of the Wright & Mills law firm in Skowhegan since 1982. Maine Senate 1995-2002, 2005-2010; Maine House of Representatives 2003-04.
FAMILY: Lives in Cornville with his wife, Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills; three daughters.
QUOTE: “Every baby born in Maine begins life owing at least $4,500 to the state. That’s each citizen’s share of $6 billion in retirement benefits owed to teachers and state employees. Maine’s financial structure is tottering because of promises it cannot keep. Until we have funded our binding promises, our budget motto must be, ‘Pay as you go or do without.'”
NAME: Leslie B. “Les” Otten
AGE: 60. Born May 24, 1949.
EDUCATION: Bachelor of science with a major in business administration from Ithaca College 1971.
CAREER: Principal of Maine Energy Systems, a wood pellet furnace company, as well as an owner and investor in a number of other small businesses including a golf swing simulator manufacturer, land and housing development companies and a restaurant at Sunday River ski resort. From 2002-2007, he was vice chairman and partner of the Boston Red Sox. From 1995 to 2001, he headed American Skiing Co., which owned ski resorts in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Colorado, Utah and California. Before forming American Skiing, he ran Sunday River in Bethel, which he bought in 1980.
FAMILY: Otten is divorced with three grown children, ages 31, 33 and 34. He lives in Greenwood.
QUOTE: “My top priority as governor will be aimed squarely at creating private-sector jobs.”
NAME: Bruce Poliquin
GE: 56. Born Nov. 1, 1953.
EDUCATION: Graduated from Harvard with a bachelor of arts with a concentration in economics.
CAREER: Since 2006, has been the principal of Dirigo Holdings LLC, which oversees two housing projects in Phippsburg. From 1996 to 2003, he was a private investor in small businesses in Maine. From 1981 until 1996, he worked as a managing partner with New York-based Avatar Investors Associates Corp.
FAMILY: He and his first wife, who was killed in a boating accident in 1991, had a son who is now 19. He lives in Georgetown.
QUOTE: “My vision is to build a new positive attitude toward business development and jobs, while preserving our special quality of life.”