AUGUSTA, Maine — Democrat Adam Cote has made his long-contemplated 2018 run for governor official, becoming the first well-known Democrat to enter the race to replace term-limited Republican Gov. Paul LePage.
Cote, a 44-year-old Sanford attorney and Army veteran, has been out of politics since he finished second in the 2008 primary in Maine’s 1st U.S. House District. The seat was won by Chellie Pingree, who still holds it.
But Cote impressed as a moderate in the field, raising more than $650,000 and beating former legislators Michael Brennan and Ethan Strimling, who have since been Portland mayor. In a statement, he admitted he might not have the political pedigree of some other candidates but brings valuable experience to the campaign.
“I have not spent much time in Augusta, but I have learned leadership through 20 years as a soldier in places like Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan and 16 years in the private sector as both a small businessman and a renewable energy attorney,” he said.
Cote said in an interview that politics in Augusta need more civility, focus and leadership — including a Democrat with the ability to unite his own party following fractures that opened in recent elections.
“If ever there’s a reason for folks to say look, elections have consequences and we have to be able to win and govern, I think that message is very clear to us now,” he said. “We have a lot more important things to be done and that is getting back the Blaine House and having a strong and aggressive agenda to grow our economy.”
Cote has long been running behind the scenes and has been publicly mulling a run since December. Other potential Democratic candidates include Attorney General Janet Mills, former Maine Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland and Lee Auto Malls Chairman Adam Lee of Cumberland.
He joins independent Maine State Treasurer Terry Hayes of Buckfield, a former Democratic legislator, as the only candidates to file who are likely to mount serious bids the 2018 after her filing last week. Cote will run as a privately financed candidate, according to the Maine Ethics Commission.
Three other candidates — Republican Deril Stubenrod of Clinton, Democrat Patrick Eisenhart of Augusta and Libertarian Richard Light of Liberty — have also filed to run, but they’re seen as longshots.
Cote, a Sanford native, lives with his wife, Paulina, and their five children. He is a graduate of Colby College and the University of Maine Law School and won the Bronze Star Medal for his service in Afghanistan and the Combat Action Badge for his role in caring for fellow soldiers after a December 2004 suicide bombing in Mosul, Iraq.
In 2013, he received the White House Champion of Change award from former Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration for his work as “a veteran working to advance clean energy and climate security.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this report incorrectly spelled Paulina Cote’s name.