AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- With a month left until Maine begins 2018, what appears to be a record number of candidates have signed up to run for Governor next year. The Maine Ethics Commission, which oversees campaign financing, has 23 people on its list of gubernatorial candidates. At least two of those candidates have indicated they dropped out of the race, though their names are still listed.
The list includes 5 active Republicans, 9 active Democrats, plus Greens, Libertarian and independent candidates. Political veterans and staff members at the Secretary of State's office say it's the largest number of candidates in memory. In 1994, 8 Republicans and 5 Democrats were in the primary, with a total of 11 from the two parties in 2010.
Political insiders say there are several reasons for the high number of candidates this time. The biggest is the fact that there won't be an incumbent in the race. Gov. Paul LePage is heading into his final year in office.1994 and 2010 were also years with an "open seat", meaning no incumbent in the race for Governor, and they, too, had bumper crops if candidates.
GOP analyst Phil Harriman said that LePage is also a factor for some of the candidates.
"If you’re a Paul LePage supporter and you want to see the future of Maine continue in that direction he’s energized some people to run. ," said Harriman. "If you think Paul Lepage has taken us in the wrong direction you’ve energized people to run."
But there are other factors that may be at play as well. Crowded primaries typically mean fewer votes are needed to win. And former Maine Democratic Party chairman Ben Grant says the growth of social media has made it easier for low budget candidates to spread their message.
Grant says another big factor, especially for his party, is the intense political climate if the past two years, primarily because of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.
"I think in part by Bernie but also by the Trump victory. It’s radicalized some people to get involved who weren’t before," said Grant.
Both said they expect the candidate list will shrink before the June primary, as some candidates fail to generate enough support and money. But it will still be a crowded primary. And with a " people's veto" petition underway to block a delay by the Legislature, it’s possible those primary races could be decided by ranked choice voting, where second or third places candidates could potentially wind up the winner as votes get recounted.
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