- Associated Press - Saturday, June 3, 2017

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Six people are running for governor in Maine so far, but all eyes are on several high-profile politicians who could shake up the race.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins has said she’s weighing whether to run for governor or stay in the U.S. Senate.

A Collins candidacy could clear the GOP field of candidates and weaken the Democratic field, as well, because her appeal as a moderate may cause some Democrats to elect to stay on the sidelines, said University of Maine political science professor Mark Brewer.

“Until she makes her move, one way or the other, I think we’re going to be in a holding pattern to some degree,” Brewer said.

Republican Gov. Paul LePage cannot seek re-election because of term limits.

The six candidates so far include State Treasurer Teresa Hayes, an Independent who recently locked horns with LePage over a wonky dispute over bonds that contractors said temporarily delayed construction projects.

Republican Deril Stubenrod, of Clinton, has officially announced. And recently, progressive activist and lobbyist Betsy Sweet announced a run as an anti-establishment Democratic candidate. She joins fellow Democratic candidates Patrick Eisenhart, a military retiree, and Portland lawyer and Army veteran Adam Cote, who lost a 2008 primary battle against Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree.

Libertarian candidate Richard Light, also an Army veteran, says that Maine’s “lost the will to fight” for industry and innovation.

Brewer said that the current field is largely unknown. “They’re just not people you’d tend to think they have a legitimate chance of winning the office,” he said.

Many scenarios could play out.

If Collins stays in the Senate, the GOP could look to another big name like Rep. Bruce Poliquin. Former Maine GOP Chairman Rick Bennett has also said he’s mulling a run. Former Maine Health and Human Commissioner Mary Mayhew has been silent on her political future since stepping down from her position last month.

Among Democrats, names that are being tossed around include state Sen. Troy Jackson and Attorney General Janet Mills, along with former House Speaker Mark Eves and Senate President Justin Alfond.

The race could be as much a referendum on the legacy of a hard-charging and polarizing governor as a look at the future of the state’s Democratic Party at a time when Republicans control the state Senate, the governor’s office and three of four congressional seats.

Political observers should stay tuned. More announcements are likely this summer.

“It’s way too soon to say anything with any certainty until we start to hear more from these high-profile candidates,” Brewer said.

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