Bangor Daily News

November 3, 2010 by staff 

Bangor Daily News, AUGUSTA, Maine – The Bangor Daily News is projecting Republican Paul LePage will be the next governor of Maine, with a lead of 7,500 votes over independent candidate Eliot Cutler with only a few still room to report on what turned out to be a nail-biting battle for the Blaine House.

LePage Cutler asked to grant the race around 11 am Wednesday, according to Cutler Campaign Manager Ted O’Meara.

Cutler “congratulated him and wished him well,” O’Meara said, while noting the independence of the campaign reserves the right to request a recount, if there is any significant change in the official results, but did not expect that to happen .

After 11 hours, only a few districts, including LePage hometown of Waterville, had yet to report results unofficial Bangor Daily News, that the tabulated election night numbers for the state.

According to official results, LePage had 38.1 percent of the vote compared to 36.7 percent of Cutler with 94 percent of precincts reporting.

Cutler is scheduled to hold a press conference at noon today in Portland. LePage’s campaign said a news conference at 2 pm in Waterville.

The margin between the candidates, who sometimes fell late Tuesday and early Wednesday to a handful of votes, was more than 7,500 votes.

Any recount would be sought by the applicant, the Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said Tuesday night.

Democrat Libby Mitchell, who acknowledged shortly after 10 pm, got only 19 percent of the vote. The other two independent career, Shawn Moody and Kevin Scott, had 5 percent and 1 percent respectively.

Cutler began Tuesday night with a great advantage, but as the gap between the two main candidates fell Tuesday night, the mood in the party after the elections Lepage spent electric optimistic. And every time the television networks showed the reduction of Cutler advantage – and eventually disappear altogether – the crowd of several hundred people gathered in a banquet hall applauded Waterville stronger.

“I’d say it’s over and we can all go to bed and sleep. But unfortunately there are a lot of votes to be counted,” LePage told the crowd.

“We hope and pray for the continuation in the trend we’ve had for the last hour. And I’m very, very confident that in the morning we will have the first French governor of the state of Maine.”

Just after 12:30 am Wednesday, Cutler entered the ballroom at the Eastland Park Hotel in Portland to enthusiastic shouts of the 200 or so supporters who were still there.

“There is nothing surprising in what is happening,” said Cutler. “We knew it was going to tighten as the smaller towns reported in”

Cutler said he thought his good performance reflects Mainers disgust “for the negative campaigning that took place in the last month.

“Regardless of who wins or loses this election – and still hopes to win – have taught us a lesson,” said Cutler. “I do not see another race with this kind of campaign in this state again.”

The cheers and continued partylike atmosphere in the ballroom was a stark contrast to the previous scene in the war room of the campaign.

After midnight the race had tightened into a tie with Cutler a lead of less than one percentage point. Deteriorated and that little advantage over Cutler raised LePage in less than a tenth of one percent. Both campaigns maneuvered back and forth for the first trade of a hundred votes at a time.

Cutler and his aides watched the results, as it trickled into their laptops, make frequent checks back compared to the 1994 campaign, when independent candidate Angus King took the Blaine House.

Cutler war room was quiet, the cable television had lost its power after dark and smooth and quiet reports of the directors were accompanied by the constant tapping on computer keyboards. Cutler said the campaign always expected a tight race, within 2 percentage points.

Back when television was still showing results, Cutler watched closely as the new cities reported in.

“You can not affect just have to wait and see what it says,” he said, walking away.

As the race tightened, Cutler mentions his friend and lawyer for the campaign, Dick Spencer, a team of account may be necessary to collect, depending on the results.

“We’ll wait and see what happens when 100 percent of the votes are counted,” Cutler said just before 2 am Wednesday.

LePage also spent much of the afternoon behind closed doors with his family and advisers. His supporters, meanwhile, became more noisy than the trend became clearer and it seemed that their candidate was strong survive the first results of Cutler.

Before Tuesday’s vote, observers of the campaign were not sure if anyone could catch LePage, who had always been leading in the polls.

In these surveys, Cutler was late in the third place for weeks, trying to move against its two major party rivals. All of this began to change in mid-October, however, polls showed that support for growth and Cutler as support organizations LePage and Mitchell spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in negative ads targeting him.

Over two weeks, Cutler went from having to answer the question of whether it was a “wasted vote” if the apparent target of the votes of Mitchell deserters, hoping to avoid a victory LePage.

The Blaine House race began more than a year and it was most expensive campaign for governor of Maine at the time of the Republican and Democratic voters chose their candidates in June.

As voters across the country, citizens of Maine went to the polls amid a mood of pessimism about the economy and frustration with politicians. Nationally, Democrats are expected to feel the sting of voter anger more than their Republican counterparts.

While Republicans of Maine are expected to gain in this traditionally blue state, all parties were waiting anxiously to see if the gains would be limited to the Legislature or would lead the first Republican in the House of Blaine from mid 1990.

LePage, Mayor of Waterville and general manager of the chain of discount retail Marden, had touched a chord among voters weary from conservatives and the recession with his campaign’s emphasis on reducing the size and scope of government, welfare reform and, ultimately, reducing taxes once the economy recovers.

LePage now well-known life story – one of the 18 children who left home at age 11 to escape an abusive father – seemed to resonate with many voters. But the powerful voice and sometimes temperamental Republican also turned off some citizens of Maine, including Kirsten Hallowell of Pittsfield.

“LePage simply do not like. He is very sharp,” said Hallowell, who voted for Cutler, and dismissed Mitchell as part of the political class in Augusta.

By admitting the race, Mitchell addressed the crowd in just 10 hours, and referred to the political disadvantage of their business in this election year.

“The Mitchell family is zero for three tonight,” said Mitchell, referring to her and two of his sons who were competing for elected office Tuesday. “I will be supportive of the next governor, whoever he is. We will work with the next governor of the state of Maine.”

Mitchell told the Bangor Daily News after his speech that it was obvious to his campaign that he would not finish in the top two, he wanted his supporters to avoid the agony of waiting.

“I wanted to make sure you knew,” he said. “No thought was right to do but wait.”

When asked what made the difference in the campaign for governor, said Mitchell faced a double whammy of being a Democrat and be a starter.

Asked what his plans over the next two days, Mitchell was momentarily at a loss for words, but then offered a response.

“I would like a new dog,” he said. “I had a golden retriever loved Paddington name who died just after the primary. I think I’d get another golden retriever.”

Bangor Daily News writers Christopher Cousins and Eric Russell contributed to this report.

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