A veteran lawmaker who has been arguably one of Gov. Paul LePage’s staunchest allies in the Legislature has announced that he will run for governor as a Republican.
House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, said he is launching an exploratory campaign as of Wednesday but that he intends to continue his candidacy through a Republican primary election in June.
He becomes the third prominent Maine Republican to announce a campaign to succeed LePage, who is term-limited out of office next year. Former Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew of South China and Maine Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason of Lisbon Falls also are running.
“I wouldn’t be running if I didn’t think I could win,” Fredette said during an interview at his law office in Newport. “The theme we will be using in this campaign is ‘stay the course.’”
Fredette, 53, is a Washington County native and the first member of his immediate family to go to college. In addition to holding a University of Maine law degree and a master’s in public administration from Harvard University, Fredette is the judge advocate general for the Bangor-based Army Air National Guard’s 101st Air Refueling Wing.
Fredette has built a high but embattled profile in the Legislature, especially since he was first elected leader of the House Republicans in 2012, after Democrats retook the House majority. Despite being outnumbered, House Republicans have stood solidly together, behind Fredette, on a number of votes ranging from sustaining some of LePage’s vetoes to holding out on budget negotiations that threatened to shut down state government in 2015 and did shut down state government for three days earlier this year.
Fredette played a central role in this year’s shutdown, which pitted LePage and House Republicans against Democrats and Senate Republicans. Under Fredette, almost all of the House Republicans opposed several versions of the state budget before voting with the rest of the Legislature to end the shutdown on July 3.
Fredette claims a role in many of LePage’s accomplishments, such as lowering Maine’s income tax rate, paying off old Medicaid debt to hospitals with liquor sales revenues and reducing Maine’s unemployment rate to the lowest point in decades. After four unsuccessful attempts for election to the Legislature dating back to 1996, Fredette spent his first term on the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee.
Fredette has spearheaded initiatives ranging from stiffer job-seeking requirements in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program to curtailments in publicly financed campaigns and a range of bills that sought to fight domestic abuse.
“All the big arguments over the past several years, I was in the middle of,” said Fredette, who rejected the notion that he is an anti-establishment candidate but said he would follow LePage’s example of trying to advance Republican goals without legislative approval.
“It’s not a matter of ‘this is the way you operate,’” said Fredette. “It’s a matter of standing up for your caucus. You’ve got to be willing to stand up and fight and the Maine voters have to be able to connect with who they think can lead the state.”
The race to replace LePage continues to take shape. In addition to independent state Treasurer Terry Hayes and the three Republicans, nine candidates have already declared for the 2018 Democratic primary.
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