PORTLAND, Maine — The trade organization that represents Maine’s construction industry endorsed Republican Paul LePage for governor Thursday, portraying him as the candidate who will cut taxes and unravel the state’s regulatory climate to the benefit of builders and contractors.

“It was a pretty stark choice for us,” said Doug Newman, chairman of the Maine chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. “We took our responsibility very seriously.”

Newman, who is president of Newman Concrete Services in Richmond, said the trade group carefully vetted all of the candidates and concluded that the governor’s race, which has five names on the ballot including three independents, is really between LePage and Democrat Libby Mitchell.

Before endorsing LePage, Newman criticized Mitchell’s long record in the Maine Legislature, saying she has “a pretty good record of amassing government and raising taxes.”

Mitchell, at another press conference in South Portland later Thursday morning, defended her record, pointing out that she, like any other politician, has been “held accountable” by voters over and over again — and she has passed their test every time.

“When we talk about Susan Collins or Olympia Snowe, we don’t call them career politicians. We call them public servants,” said Mitchell. “I was not appointed to the Senate. I have to go out every two years and hold myself accountable. Maine people are still making up their minds. I think they are going to start to see the difference between me and my Republican opponent.”

LePage, speaking at the former Jordan’s Meats location on Fore Street in Portland, where workers are building a hotel and condominium complex, referred to the construction equipment around him in accepting the endorsement.

“It’s time to put people back to work,” he said. “My goal is to get a lot of cranes like these working all over the state.”

LePage then described himself as someone who will make sudden and drastic changes to state government if elected governor — a theme he has voiced throughout his campaign.

“If you are happy with the direction the state is going, I am clearly not your candidate,” said LePage. “I am that candidate that is going to concentrate on putting Maine people back to work.”

LePage, the mayor of Waterville who is also general manager of Marden’s stores, continued that like Martin Luther King Jr., he has “a dream,” only LePage’s is for Mainers to be able to vacation in their own state “like the out-of-staters do.”

LePage said he intends to prioritize government services to determine which programs aren’t worth the expense, then cut them. Asked after the press conference which programs he is targeting, LePage said he doesn’t know yet but that he and a team of advisers are working on that priority list.

LePage also reiterated is often-stated pledge to cut taxes, specifically the tax on state employees’ pensions and income taxes for anyone who earns less than $30,000 per year. LePage said after the press conference that he’ll pay for those tax reductions by making cuts in state government.

“Paul LePage understands that Maine’s economy is driven by small businesses,” said Newman. “We know that company owners must have a stable, predictable business climate in order to provide jobs. A mayor, LePage has done that for Waterville — and as Governor LePage, he’ll do it for Maine.”

Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.