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Fundraising Already in Full Swing in Maine's Top Political Races
07/01/2013   Reported By: A.J. Higgins

Maine's next governor won't be elected for another 17 months. But the fundraising by gubernatorial hopefuls is in full swing. And as their supporters raise large sums of money, other candidates are officially lining up to run for the wide-open race in the 2nd Congressional District. And as A.J. Higgins reports, it looks to be a long line.

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Maybe it was Gov. Paul LePage's recent decision to reconsider his bid for reelection. Or maybe everyone's just rushing the political season. Either way, the 2014 race for governor is cranking up with Republicans, Democrats and independents digging deep to raise campaign cash.

"The financial contributions, people who have offered to volunteer, people who have reached out to the congressman saying that they want to help, has been overwhelming," says David Farmer, a spokesman for 2nd District Congressman Michael Michaud, who's considering seeking the Democratic nomination for governor.

Farmer says Michaud raised more than $300,000 for his exploratory committee in the last 17 days, surpassing a personal goal. The reporting period for campaign contributions ended Saturday, and all of the candidates are required to file campaign finance reports by July 15.

Michaud will probably not make a formal announcement of his intentions to run for governor by then, a decision Farmer said will be based on how the former mill worker can best serve his constituents.

"The congressman is traveling around the state, he keeps a very active schedule, he's talking to folks," Farmer says. "He's meeting with families, with individuals, with business leaders, and trying to discern whether he can best serve Maine in Washington as a member of Congress, or as governor."

Other gubernatorial campaigns are also gearing up. Ted O'Meara is working for Eliot Cutler, the Cape Elizabeth independent who finished a close second to Gov. Paul LePage in 2010. He says Cutler has raised about $430,000 - including about $200,000 dollars in the last two weeks.

O'Meara says, so far, Cutler has not needed to make any personal loans to his campaign. Meanwhile, Brent Littlefield, senior political director for the governor, says LePage is preparing for a major Tuesday evening fundraiser in Kennebunkport that will be highlighted by a presentation from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

"We're actively raising money for the governor's reelection campaign," Littlefield says, "but unlike the other politicians, Paul LePage has actually been serving as governor, and he's been working to lower Maine's unemployment rate - that's been his focus while other people have been playing politics."

The flurry of interest in the gubernatorial race has also triggered early activity among those who would like to replace Congressman Michaud in Washington, should he make his gubernatorial run official.

State Sen. Emily Cain is an Orono Democrat who wants to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. She says since Maine's 2nd Congressional District is the largest east of the Mississippi River, there's no time to waste.

"To do it right, you've got to start early, you've got to start putting yourself out there, and I think there's no reason to wait," Cain says. "When you really want something, you just have to go for it. And in this case, I think the more time we have to make the case to Maine voters, the better."

And Cain isn't the only member of the Maine Senate who wants a shot at Michaud's seat. Sen. Troy Jackson, a Democrat from Allagash, says he will oppose her in a primary.

"I want to continue doing everything I can for working class families," Jackson says, "trying to provide affordable health care, standing up for working Mainers. And I don't see enough of that in Congress. I think there's a lot of people there that are bought and paid for by special interests, and I'm definitely not that."

In addition to the two Democrats, Assistant House Republican Leader Alex Willette, of Mapleton, has announced that he will seek the GOP nomination for the 2nd Congressional District. Willette says he's convinced he can prevail in a primary. "We've got the people behind us to win this primary and win the general election," Willette says. "So we're ready to do it."

In addition to Willette, former Republican State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin is also interested in the 2nd District seat, as is Democratic Bango City Councilor Joe Baldacci.


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