LEWISTON — Michael Heath, former executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine, has decided to run for governor as an unenrolled candidate. He filed his intentions with the state Tuesday.

Last September, Heath stepped down from his role as leader of the Maine Family Policy Council, formerly known as the Christian Civic League of Maine. Though he has been a leading voice against gay rights in Maine, his departure came during a high-profile campaign to repeal a law allowing same-sex marriage.

Bob Celeste of Harrison, who is charged with collecting the 4,000 signatures Heath needs by June 1 to get his name on the ballot, returned a request from the Sun Journal to Heath for comment.

“One of the reasons Mike got into the race is because of the direction the state is going; it’s taking such a turn to the left politically,” Celeste said Tuesday. “Yesterday, when Mike and I were talking over coffee, I said to him, ‘What we need is someone with high visibility that can get some press. I’d like you to run for governor.’”

Celeste said he and Heath, who have been friends for more than 25 years, were upset about action by the Maine Human Rights Commission.

The panel recently considered issuing guidelines for equitable treatment of transgender students in public schools, including allowing students to use bathrooms and to play on the sports teams with the gender they identify with. A final decision is expected in May.

“This was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Celeste said. “We need a bully pulpit; we need to let people know how bad this is becoming and how hard we’ve been fighting. Mike is the most viable candidate to restore Maine to its more conservative roots.”

Heath and his wife, Polly, recently returned from a missionary trip to Africa, Celeste said.

He said he’s optimistic about Health’s chances as a candidate.

“People spend a phenomenal amount of money trying to get name recognition and position recognition and I would venture to say, there is not a voter in the state of Maine that does not know the name Mike Heath and does not know his position,” Celeste said.

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