AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — More hats are being tossed in the ring to be Maine’s next governor. And this time they're all Republican.
Before Labor Day, the only Republican in the race was Mary Mayhew.
Now, with Labor Day passed, there are three, with the addition of Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason and House GOP leader Ken Fredette.
Mason had planned campaign announcements on Wednesday but late Tuesday night was forced to postpone that event after the sudden death of his mother.
Gina Mason was also a first-term Republican representative in the Maine House, serving the people of Lisbon. She also had a long record of community service in that town.
Fredette went ahead with his announcement in Newport, beginning by expressing sadness over Gina Mason’s passing.
“We’re a big family in the Maine House,” he said, adding that, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family.”
Fredette said his run for governor is based on a theme of “Stay The Course,” meaning follow the economic policies championed for seven years by his party and Gov. Paul LePage.
“I believe we achieved significant progress," he said. "We essentially took the state from 2010 with an unemployment rate of 8.5 percent to virtually full employment.”
Fredette also said he will campaign for continuing to reduce taxes and limit spending, key items in the Gov. LePage agenda.
Fredette has been a key supporter of the governor, leading his conservative House Republican caucus to back many of LePage’s policies on taxes, spending and welfare. That was never more evident than this year when Fredette led the effort to block a budget the governor and many fellow House GOP members didn’t like.
That resulted in a weekend state shutdown, but ultimately he and LePage got much of what they wanted in the final budget compromise.
However, Mayhew is also running as a successor to LePage. Like Fredette, she is believed to be close to LePage and says she will continue his policies, particularly those regarding welfare and human services programs. Both will presumably be campaigning to win over the governor’s supporters.
Fredette’s response was to say he was running as himself, not representing LePage, and said, ”I’ve been in the trenches for seven years,” adding that he has dealt with a much wider range of state issues than just health and human services, the state agency Mayhew used to run.
Fredette said he will be out of the state the next several weeks on National Guard duty, but after that will “hit the ground running” with the campaign when he returns.
A GOP political consultant told NEWS CENTER there could be more Republican candidates entering the race. The biggest name mentioned is U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who has said she will decide whether to run for governor by the end of this month.
There are currently nine Democratic candidates, two Green Independents, one Libertarian and one independent who have formally declared their candidacy.