January 22, 2022

Flanagan quits race for governor

SOUTH PORTLAND – Nearly a year and a half-million dollars of his own money later, David Flanagan abandoned his bid Thursday to become Maine’s next governor after publicly concluding he had no chance of winning.

“While I have enjoyed the good wishes of many people, it is clear to me that the level of support is not what it should be to continue this race,” said the Manchester independent. “To do so would require a level of resources that I am simply unable to provide.”

According to June’s state campaign finance reports, most of the nearly $550,000 raised for the campaign has been provided through loans from Flanagan and his wife. Surrounded by supporters and family Thursday in his South Portland headquarters, Flanagan said it was concern for his staff and volunteers that influenced his decision to leave the race.

“Rather than put a lot of people through the agony of a campaign that didn’t have a chance of prevailing, it was better to withdraw at this point,” he said.

Flanagan attracted a wide array of Democratic, Republican and independent supporters. His departure from the race also removes an interesting political dynamic.

As former chief counsel to former Gov. Joseph E. Brennan, Flanagan was perceived by some election watchers as an old-guard conservative Democrat. After unenrolling in the party, he reached out to Democrats disaffected with mainstream politics. He succeeded in attracting the support of well-known Democrats like Frank O’Hara of Hallowell and Janet Mills of Skowhegan.

Flanagan also was embraced by some Republicans, particularly those in the business community he had befriended as the former president of Central Maine Power Co., and he had the potential to draw support away from both of the major-party candidates.

In an interview after the press conference, Flanagan made no attempt to conceal his disappointment. He doesn’t plan to endorse any of the other candidates and surmised he was still the best person for the job.

“I regret very much not being in this race and winning because I believe that, alone among the candidates, I have the background and experience to deal with the enormous budget crisis that [Maine] faces,” he said.

Still, Flanagan came to terms with the fact Thursday that he was unable to convey his message in a way to attract large blocs of voters. He said his polling results, which some say never came close to reaching double digits, were key factors in his withdrawal.

To some extent, Flanagan’s inability to connect with the voters first surfaced last December when his entire staff resigned. In a letter to the candidate, campaign manager John O’Dea, director of field operations Matthew Marks and communications director Brian Carter voiced opinions that proved prophetic.

“It is still early in the process, but success for this campaign is exceedingly unlikely – impossible in our view given the current situation,” the staff wrote. “That also contributed to our decision and should impact yours given your position in the polls and your performance as a campaigner. Perhaps others can invent a better mousetrap as it were. Perhaps others can discover what motivates and energizes you. We wish them well.”

As the dust cleared along the gubernatorial trail Thursday, Republican candidate Peter Cianchette of South Portland, Democratic candidate and 2nd District U.S. Rep. John Baldacci of Bangor, and Green Independent Party candidate Jonathan Carter of Lexington Township all expressed respect for Flanagan’s decision.

Independent candidate John Michael of Auburn said he felt “sorry” for Flanagan since he knew how much of his heart, time and money had been invested in the campaign. But he thought Flanagan had an uphill fight in trying to differentiate himself from the two major-party candidates because of his back-to-back roles as a prominent Democrat and a conservative businessman. If nothing else, Michael said, Flanagan’s departure improved his own visibility as a candidate.

“It’s good for me because the independent message can now be clarified behind one candidate,” Michael said.

Flanagan called Baldacci Thursday morning to inform him of his plans. Donna Gormley, Baldacci’s communications director, said the congressman had “great respect for how Flanagan had run his campaign.

“He realizes that David and [Baldacci] agree on the need to address health care, economic development and affordable housing and believes he had a lot to offer the people of Maine,” Gormley said.

Cianchette said he was not entirely surprised by Flanagan’s choice to leave the fray. He also believed they both shared views on important Maine issues.

“He’s been talking a lot about lowering Maine’s tax burden and controlling spending and creating a strong economy as have I,” Cianchette said.

Carter said that although he and Flanagan disagreed on some issues, the former candidate had “many great ideas and would have made a great governor. … It is a shame that he will no longer be a part of this exciting campaign.”

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