Independent Caron drops out of Blaine House race, backs Mills

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PORTLAND — Independent Alan Caron withdrew from the governor’s race Monday and urged his followers to vote for the Democratic candidate, Attorney General Janet Mills.

His decision fulfilled a campaign promise to get out of the race if it became apparent he couldn’t win.

“I’m not a person who quits things easily,” Caron said at a Portland Public Library news conference. “Today I’m writing the final lines in this chapter of my life.”

He was then joined by Mills, whom he described as “the only one who can bring us forward.”

Mills thanked Caron for the endorsement, saying “this event is all about pulling together. … We are going to win this together.”

Caron, who has trailed in last place during the entire campaign, made a pledge in a March 23 op-ed column in the Portland Press Herald that he would exit the race by mid-October if it was clear he couldn’t win.

Polls have shown Mills and Republican Shawn Moody strongly leading the race to replace Gov. Paul LePage, with Caron, an economic development consultant, and fellow independent Terry Hayes, the state treasurer, trailing far behind them – typically in the single digits. Given his standing in the polls, Caron had been under increasing pressure over the last week to honor his pledge.

Although Hayes did not get Caron’s endorsement, she appealed to his supporters to vote for her.

“Electing another partisan Democrat or Republican as governor guarantees more fighting and gridlock in Augusta,” Hayes said in a statement Monday. “Maine can’t afford four more years of what didn’t work before and what isn’t working now.”

Caron, a former Democrat, said there was “no possibility” he would endorse anybody other than Mills, adding that the two campaigns started talking about this outcome several weeks ago after a debate.

“I think we have to deal with practical realities,” Caron said, when asked why he endorsed a party-backed candidate instead of independent Hayes. “I am not going to win this race. Janet is going to win this race, and I want to be a part of making that happen. I wish things had gone differently.”

“I do think we’ve had too much partisan gridlock and I’m persuaded Janet can help break that gridlock,” he added.

Moody campaign adviser Brent Littlefield responded to Caron’s announcement on Twitter, saying the move was “not a surprise” given Caron’s prior activism as a Democrat. Littlefield noted that Hayes also had been a Democrat.

“If someone wants politics as usual they can pick Mills or Hayes,” Littlefield tweeted. “Maine people want a fresh voice with a proven history of creating jobs and solving problems, and that is why entrepreneur Shawn Moody will be elected as Maine’s next governor.”

Caron, 66, has come under increasing pressure from the left to drop out in order to avoid the split electorate that lifted Republican LePage to victory in the 2010 governor’s race with just 38 percent of the vote.

In LePage’s first win, independent Eliot Cutler came in second with 37 percent of the vote and Democrat Libby Mitchell finished a distant third with 19 percent. In his re-election victory, LePage got 47 percent of the vote, Democratic challenger Mike Michaud got 44 percent and Cutler got 8 percent.

At his news conference, Caron was asked if he thought Hayes also should withdraw from the race.

“I’m not going to suggest what she should do,” he said. “I hope only that she will find a few moments away from the vortex of the campaign and think about what she could do best to move the state forward.”

Caron’s name will still appear on the ballot, but any votes for him will not be tabulated.

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or Twitter: @noelinmaine.

Independent candidate for governor Alan Caron, left, ends his campaign Monday, Oct. 29, at the Portland Public Library, and endorses Democrat Janet Mills.