SOUTH PORTLAND, MAINE - Two of the three gubernatorial candidates on the ballot for Maine governor squared off in a radio debate Monday, hosted by WGAN. The debate featured independent Terry Hayes and Republican Shawn Moody. Democrat Janet Mills canceled her appearance in the debate.
Credit: News Radio WGAN
From the beginning of the debate, Hayes made a clear distinction between herself and her opponents: "I am not a partisan."
"If you've watched what's been happening in Augusta for the last six or so years, the partisanship has gotten in the way," Hayes told the debate moderators. "We've made some gains, but I step back and ask, 'Where could we be if we, in fact, still valued each other in doing this work? If we were able to still respect folks with a different perspective?'"
Hayes says that in the last legislative session alone, there was a government shutdown "that no one can remember why." The legislature was also supposed to adjourn in April, but wasn't finished until September. Hayes says the executive branch has been "at war with the legislative branch" for six years.
"If we elect another partisan, I think we lock that in, and I don't think that is in Maine's best interest," she says.
"I think it is in our best interest to elect someone who does not have to serve a party base, who doesn't owe anything to folks who wrote checks, who is not beholden to special interests. That is the difference I bring to the ballot from my two rivals."
In other words, as campaign manager Kyle Bailey said after the debate, "Maine can’t afford more partisan fighting and gridlock.”
Terry Hayes is the only independent, clean elections candidate in the governor's race. Running a clean elections campaign means Hayes does not raise contributions the traditional way, nor does she take money from corporations, unions, or special and moneyed interest groups.
The most recent poll in the governor's race, conducted by Pan Atlantic SMS Group, show Shawn Moody and Terry Hayes trailing Democrat Janet Mills. The October 19 poll shows Mills at 44%, Moody at 35.9%, and Hayes at 7.9%.
The Hayes campaign contends that she is in a better position to beat Janet Mills than Shawn Moody, which is not easy for someone outside the two-party apparatus. It's an issue that independent and third party candidates run into in multi-candidate, choose-one elections.
Hayes, who does not have the institutional support of a political party, has to convince voters that she is not a spoiler against candidates who do. Yet Bailey asserts that she has broad support across the political spectrum.
“Terry Hayes talks straight, tells the truth, and puts people over partisanship to solve problems, and that’s why Republicans, Democrats, independents, and third party voters across Maine are backing her insurgent candidacy,” added Bailey.
Public opinion polls may not be a "set-in-stone" indicator about the state of this race. Eliot Cutler polled at 19% in mid-October 2010. Yet he nearly beat Republican Paul LePage in the multi-candidate race for governor -- picking up significant momentum in the final two weeks leading up to the election.
However, unlike 2010, there is not much polling data to consider. At this point 8 years ago, 5 other polling agencies had released data on the race, which showed Cutler's rise in support among voters.
In 2018, polling has been rare, and thus Hayes faces a difficult situation for an independent candidate to overcome:
- The number of debates and forums were reduced from 24 to 11, barring the decision not to participate by the major party candidates;
- Hayes lacks the institutional and support structure of a party;
- Polling agencies have mostly stayed out of this race, meaning less opportunities for Hayes' name to get in front of voters; and
- The choose-one voting method means she will automatically be painted as the "spoiler."
Now, Maine voters have a record of voting for independent candidates for state legislature, US Senate, and yes -- governor. If elected, Terry Hayes would be Maine's third capital "I" independent governor, though the path to victory is steep.
Maine voters will choose their next governor on Tuesday, November 6.