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Independent candidate could have major impact on gubernatorial race

Terry Hayes (WGME)

PORTLAND (WGME) -- We're in the final days before the midterm elections, and both sides are fired up.

Maine's Secretary of State is expecting strong voter turnout, about 65 percent.

One of the races they'll be deciding is our next governor.

During the final debate in the CBS 13 studio Thursday night, the candidates discussed how an independent might influence the outcome.

With Independent Terry Hayes behind in the polls, experts say it's not a question of whether she'll win, but which candidate she'll draw more votes from.

A mailer from the Janet Mills campaign says a vote for Hayes is no different than a vote for Shawn Moody.

“I’m just anxious to hear how you defend this,” Hayes said. “Apparently I'm not independent from your perspective.”

It's an issue that claimed center stage for part of CBS 13’s final gubernatorial debate.

“I can only repeat what Alan Caron said the other day, that the danger of an independent in this particular context is to allow the republican to win,” Mills said. “That's what other people are saying, Terry.”

Back in 2010, less than two percentage points separated Independent Eliot Cutler from the winner. Republican Paul LePage.

Democrat Libby Mitchell was a distant third.

Four years later, Cutler ran again for governor.

The democrat in the race, Mike Michaud, won 43 percent of the vote to Governor LePage's 48 percent.

Cutler took 8 percent, splitting the vote once again.

Ron Schmidt is a political science professor at the University of Southern Maine, and says Hayes isn't as strong a candidate as Cutler, but he can understand why both parties would be worried.

“I mean Hayes was State Treasurer under Governor LePage and a lot of her economic policies are very market driven, so that does make sense for some republicans, but a majority of her policy proposals, I think, are closer to Mills,” Schmidt said.

He believes she'll be a bigger threat to democrats.

“She has a shot at having an effect on the outcome,” Schmidt said.

Hayes says she's still in it to win it.

“Whoever comes out on top wins, and I’m not stealing anybody's vote by putting my hat in the ring and competing legitimately for this opportunity to lead Maine,” Hayes said.

Whatever the outcome, Schmidt says he expects it to be a close one.

CBS 13 reached out to Moody’s campaign for comment on this issue.

A spokesperson says they're confident voters will choose his decades of experience creating jobs rather than turn Augusta back over to politicians.

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