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GOVERNOR'S RACE Campaign finances shape up
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Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel 01/21/2010

AUGUSTA -- Portland businesswoman Rosa Scarcelli and former Attorney General Steve Rowe are neck and neck among Democrats competing to raise money in the race for governor.

Scarcelli, owner of a home building company, has reported $260,090 in contributions to date, just ahead of $251,707 reported by Rowe.

Scarcelli's total includes a $16,300 loan she made to the campaign, while Rowe contributed only $225 to his own cause.

Scarcelli and Rowe are just two of seven Democrats running for governor and are among 23 candidates total.

Four Democrats are participating in the state's public campaign finance system -- which will make them eligible for hundreds of thousands of dollars if they qualify -- so their totals are far less than what was raised by Rowe and Scarcelli.

With the June primary months away, and other candidates jumping into the race last week, the bid to replace Gov. John Baldacci is beginning to pick up speed. Baldacci, a Democrat, is prevented from running for office again because of the state's term limits law.

This week's campaign finance reporting deadline is one of the first opportunities to assess the candidates. But because some are raising their own money and others want to use the state's public financing system, it's difficult to make an "apples-to-apples" comparison.

For candidates such as Scarcelli, the reports are a chance to show legitimacy even though she's not a well-known political figure in Maine, said Patsy Wiggins, Scarcelli's campaign manager.

"The message is she certainly is getting the support and attention from a lot of people across the state," Wiggins said.

But the Rowe camp says cash totals don't tell the whole story.

Toby McGrath, campaign manager for Rowe, said the most important factor to consider is how many contributors gave to the campaign -- and whether they are from in state or "from away."

According to the Rowe campaign, 94 percent of Rowe's money is from Maine contributors, compared to 32 percent for Scarcelli.

"It's clear the Democratic gubernatorial candidate with the most depth and breadth of support in the state of Maine is Steve Rowe," McGrath said in a statement.

Wiggins didn't dispute the Rowe camp's analysis and said they won't apologize for taking money from out of state.

"We're not sorry about that at all," Wiggins said. "She's been nationally recognized in business. It elevates her circle of connections not only in Maine, but beyond our borders."

Among the other Democrats, Senate President Elizabeth Mitchell, D-Vassalboro, reported nearly $70,000 in Clean Election seed money, which exceeds the amount needed to qualify for public funds.

John Richardson reported $46,249 and Donna Dion listed $2,507.

Patrick McGowan was not required to file a report because he did not enter the race until after the Dec. 31 reporting deadline.

When it comes to the GOP contenders, two privately funded candidates stand out from the pack -- Bruce Poliquin has more than $440,000 in receipts and $190,000 in in-kind contributions for a total of more than $600,000. Of that, $100,000 came from Poliquin himself.

Les Otten reported $662,632, with $586,760 of his own funds.

Other privately funded Republicans are Matt Jacobson, who reported $82,088; and Waterville mayor Paul LePage, who reported $61,115.

Sen. Peter Mills, R-Cornville, running as a Clean Election candidate, is close to meeting the required $40,000 in seed money needed to qualify for public funds. He's raised $37,595 so far, according to the reports.

Clean Election candidates must also get 3,250 contributions of $5 to become eligible to receive an initial disbursement of $400,000 for the primary. That could increase by $200,000 in matching money.

Two other Republicans -- Steve Abbott and William Beardsley -- were not required to file reports because they just entered the race last week.

Among independents in the race, only Eliot Cutler has raised more than $1,000. He reported $266,485 in receipts, $150,000 of which came from his own pocket. He also reported $16,068 in in-kind contributions.

Green Independent Lynne Williams reported raising $9,869 in seed money toward the $40,000 requirement to participate in the Clean Election program.

She said she's got 15 house parties planned so volunteers can help her make phone calls to raise the rest of the money by the April 1 deadline.

"People are now more beginning to focus on the race than before the holidays," she said.

Susan Cover -- 620-7015