AUGUSTA (AP) – State Sen. Chandler Woodcock of Farmington has been given the go-ahead to draw nearly $200,000 in Clean Election funds to finance his bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

Woodcock, seen as one of three contenders for the GOP nod along with state Sen. Peter Mills of Cornville and former U.S. Rep. David Emery of St. George, received notice of his certification by the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices late Tuesday.

In a follow-up letter circulated Wednesday, Woodcock was told he had met the statutory requirement for public financing.

“The amount of your initial distribution for the primary election is $199,999.46. The commission has authorized the release of that amount. This payment will be made by check as you have requested. Your distribution is based on the initial primary distribution amount for a gubernatorial candidate ($200,000) less any unspent seed money. Your seed money report indicated a balance of $0.54,” Executive Director Jonathan Wayne of the ethics panel wrote.

Prospective Clean Election candidates for governor can collect up to $50,000 in private donations, with no single donation exceeding $100, in seed money to start up their campaigns.

In order to qualify for public funding, party-affiliated candidates must collect 2,500 donations of $5 each by April 18. Nonparty, or independent, candidates have until June 2.

“This certification is a credit to the many people across Maine who have spent their nights and weekends volunteering for the Woodcock for Governor campaign,” Woodcock said in a statement. “We have received certification earlier than any other gubernatorial candidate running under the Clean Elections Act, which demonstrates the effectiveness of our large and growing grass-roots organization.”

In the Republican gubernatorial contest, Emery is running as a privately funded candidate while Mills is seeking to qualify under the Clean Elections system.

Mills said Wednesday he expected a political action committee formed by supporters of his candidacy that was the subject of an article in the Portland Press Herald on Wednesday would be folding up its efforts on his behalf.

The newspaper reported that campaign finance filings indicated that Maine for Mills raised $7,900 through March 31.

Mills also said he expected to meet his full filing requirements for Clean Elections backing soon.

Approved by voters in 1996, Maine’s Clean Election process was first used in 2000 for legislative candidates and in 2002 for candidates for governor.

Qualifying candidates must agree for the most part not to raise private funds and to limit spending. Nonparticipating candidates may raise and spend money without limitation.

If a participating candidate is outspent by a candidate raising private funds, matching money becomes available.

Democratic Gov. John Baldacci, seeking re-election, is running as a privately financed candidate.