AUGUSTA -- The three-way race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination is entering a new phase.
State Sens. Chandler Woodcock, R-Farmington, and Peter Mills, R-Skowhegan, are one step closer to qualifying for public financing of their primary campaigns. Gubernatorial candidates seeking Clean Election Fund money must submit at least 2,500 $5 contributions to the fund. Once the contributions are certified, the two candidates will qualify for $200,000 in public money to run their primary campaigns.
For those two candidates, the money chase is over.
"It means we are forbidden by law from raising any more money," Mills said on Wednesday. "I can't tell you how freeing that is."
Collecting the qualifying contributions has taken priority over other areas of the campaign for Woodcock, said Chris Jackson, his campaign manager. "The good thing about getting this behind us is so now we can start working on the other stuff."
Former U.S. Rep. Dave Emery, who is the third candidate in the primary, is not seeking public money for his campaign.
According to state Rep. Ronald Collins, who is the York County chairman for Emery's campaign, the candidate raised $40,000 recently with a Washington, D.C., fundraiser and will begin airing campaign commercials during the next few weeks.
Emery has already posted a biographical commercial on his campaign Web site, and Collins said, he has a second ready to go. The Web ad touts Emery's experience in public office, his time in Congress and ties him to the legacy of former President Reagan.
Calls to Emery's campaign were not returned Wednesday or Thursday.
Collecting 2,500 $5 checks is daunting and a high hurdle for candidates hoping for public financing.
"It's very hard," Mills said. "People will turn you down not because they don't like you, or don't like your ideas. It's just that some people are reluctant to do it. The system is designed to show that you have a network of friends and friends of friends who will do this for you."
"Collecting these qualifying contributions is a huge task," Woodcock said. "Our grassroots organization worked tirelessly to make this happen."
The Republican primary is set for June 13. The deadline for candidates to submit qualifying contributions to the Maine Clean Election Fund is April 18.