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Independent Alan Caron drops out of Maine governor’s race

October 29, 2018 GMT
Alan Caron, former independent candidate for Maine Governor, left, offers his endorsement to Democratic candidate Janet Mills, after Caron announced he was withdrawing from the race Monday, Oct. 29, 2018, in Portland, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Alan Caron, former independent candidate for Maine Governor, left, offers his endorsement to Democratic candidate Janet Mills, after Caron announced he was withdrawing from the race Monday, Oct. 29, 2018, in Portland, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Independent entrepreneur Alan Caron made good on his promise Monday to drop out of the Maine governor’s race if he didn’t think he could win.

Caron announced he’s abandoning his bid for governor — and he’s endorsing Democratic Attorney General Janet Mills for governor, who joined him at a news conference.

Caron has decried partisanship and the reliance on more taxpayer spending alone to solve Maine’s pressing issues. But he said independents only have a chance when major party candidates falter, said Caron, who said Mills would bring people together to improve the economy and health care.

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“I’m not a person that quits things easily,” Caron said.

Also in the race are independent state Treasurer Terry Hayes and Republican businessman Shawn Moody, whose campaign adviser called Caron a “longtime Democratic party activist and commentator.”

Critics who feared Caron or Hayes simply siphon votes away from other candidates, making them spoilers, have been on the attack.

Caron said fixing the “spoiler problem” in elections is Maine’s most urgent priority. But he declined to call on Hayes to drop out.

“I’m going to let her make that decision for herself, but I hope she’ll come to the right conclusion,” he said.

Hayes, in response, said she invited Caron’s supporters to back her campaign.

Caron largely self-funded his campaign. The former political strategist and business consultant said it’s time for Maine to stop looking to the past, and to embrace the future. He said he was committed to reducing the use of fossil fuels through his support of solar power.

Caron has previously said he would exit the race if he couldn’t win. His campaign was aware that voters were soured on multi-candidate races.

Nine of Maine’s past 11 gubernatorial elections resulted in winners who had failed to collect a majority of the vote, and that was the impetus for ranked-choice voting , a system aimed to reducing the impact of spoilers and ensuring there’s a majority winner.

But ranked-choice voting isn’t being used in the governor’s race because of concerns it could violate the Maine Constitution.

On Monday, Caron called on lawmakers and Maine’s next governor to allow ranked-choice voting for November gubernatorial and legislative elections. Mills said she’d draft a constitutional amendment making the change.

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Mills and Caron said the two have worked on presidential races together. Caron said he doesn’t remember whether he or Mills first brought up the endorsement, but said the two discussed the idea at a debate weeks ago.

“I think we have to deal with practical realities,” Caron said. “I am not going to win this race.”

Caron has described himself as rising out of poverty in Waterville, and building a career as a small business owner after dropping out of high school in the ninth grade and later earning a degree from Harvard. He took on jobs at a mill and in construction, and served eight months in Maine prison in the early 1970s for “receiving stolen goods” as an 18-year-old and violating probation conditions.

Later, former Democratic. Gov. Joe Brennan pardoned Caron.

Caron has since led nonprofits that have authored public policy reports that have steered bipartisan discussions of Maine’s economic future.

If given the chance, Caron said he wouldn’t have run as independent, which he described as requiring “more personal wealth” than he has.

“I’ll dust myself off,” he said.

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Associated Press writer David Sharp in Portland contributed to this report.