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Cianchette withdraws candidacy
Tuesday, October 04, 2005 - Bangor Daily News

AUGUSTA - Peter Cianchette shocked Republicans across the state Monday when he formally withdrew from the 2006 governor's race leaving the party's fate to a small pool of lesser-known candidates.

The current state GOP national committee member who staged an unsuccessful 2002 challenge against Democratic Gov. John E. Baldacci, Cianchette cited family considerations as the overriding factor for dropping out of the race. The 44-year-old South Portland businessman is married and has a 13-year-old son and an 11-year-old daughter. He officially announced his decision to seek the GOP nomination in late July.

"After several months on the campaign trail, I have determined that the commitment required for a yearlong campaign and then to govern the state is greater than I can give at this time in my life,"

Cianchette said in a prepared statement. "I believe strongly in the importance and value of public service, and I also believe that must come in the right season of one's life. After honestly reflecting on these past several months, I have concluded that this is not the right time for me. ... The obligations of Maine's highest office are greater than I want to bear at this point in my life."

Cianchette, who chaired President Bush's re-election campaign last year, went on to explain that while he may seek public office again at some future time, he now knows he has only one "opportunity to be there with my children during some of the most important years of their young lives."

"I don't want to miss that," he said.

In a telephone interview after his announcement, Cianchette implied there may be more surprises in the future after he was asked whether he would support the GOP gubernatorial candidate in 2006.

Cianchette said he has no plans to back any particular GOP candidate in the gubernatorial primary and made it clear he even intended to leave his options open in the general election.

"Look, I feel very strongly that Maine needs new leadership, and I've been very clear about that, and the defeat of John Baldacci is critically important," he said without elaborating. "To the extent that I as a private citizen can support that, I will."

Lee Umphrey, the governor's campaign spokesman, said that "regardless of who his opponent is," Baldacci plans to run on his record.

"He feels very strongly that he always has Maine's best interests as his highest priority," Umphrey said.

While there was no apparent bitterness in Cianchette's voice, other behind-the-scenes Republicans said the former state representative was deeply disappointed that he was unable to solidify his base early on and demonstrate enough strength to discourage GOP contenders from entering a primary.

In fact, former U.S. Rep. David Emery announced his candidacy before Cianchette did only to subsequently withdraw from the race in deference to the candidate with higher visibility. State Sen. Peter Mills, R-Cornville, later jumped into the ring in spite of Cianchette's candidacy and has been staging an aggressive campaign for months, building a network across the state and converting former Cianchette supporters.

Mills confirmed Monday he intends to run a publicly financed campaign for governor. Bowdoin College political science professor Christian Potholm predicted the moderate Republican would be formidable as he reacted Monday to Cianchette's announcement.

"I think Peter Cianchette expected to have an unopposed nomination," Potholm said. "I think he expected to have White House support with a lot of White House money. I think he got talked into running and that his heart was not necessarily in it. And with Mills going around the state 15 hours a day, it's stirred up a lot of: 'Hey, we haven't seen the other guy. When is he coming to Mars Hill? When is he coming to Castine?'"

Mills' enthusiasm has had the effect of jump-starting the political season in Maine even at a time when others are eyeing the Blaine House cautiously. The Green Independent Party would like Pat LaMarche of Yarmouth to reprise her 1998 role as the party's gubernatorial candidate, but she has yet to make an official announcement. Nancy Oden of Jonesboro is running as an independent candidate for the job.

In addition to Mills, Bangor businessman Steve Stimpson has signaled interest in seeking the GOP nomination, and state Sen. Chandler Woodcock of Farmington also is weighing a run. Even Emery, who withdrew from the race, said he would have to reconsider a bid for the office after he received a call from members of Cianchette's staff Monday morning.

"Well, a call from staff was more than I got," remarked Mills with a laugh when asked if he had heard from Cianchette. "I still don't know what that means."

A.J. Higgins - ajhiggins@bangordailynews.net
http://www.bangordailynews.com