Gorham businessman Shawn Moody stands on stage at his auto body shop with supporters as he announced his candidacy for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, Tuesday.

GORHAM, Maine — Businessman Shawn Moody announced his bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2018 on Tuesday, pitching himself as a political outsider and “common-sense conservative” with the experience to lead.

The 58-year-old founder of Moody’s Collision Center, a Maine chain of auto repair shops, filed registration paperwork as a privately financed candidate with the Maine Ethics Commission on Tuesday morning and formally launched his bid at the company’s Gorham headquarters.

Moody referenced his business and hometown — one of the fastest-growing towns in Maine — during a 12-minute speech. He said Maine “can’t have a vibrant society without a vibrant economy” and referenced T-shirts his company’s workers once wore that said “tighten up.”

“I am a common-sense conservative and that’s the way I’m going to lead this state,” he said.

Moody is the fifth Republican running for governor in 2018 to succeed term-limited Gov. Paul LePage. Moody will be up against Senate President Mike Thibodeau, Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason, House Minority Leader Ken Fredette and former Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew. The primary election will be June 12.

Moody, who has never held elected office but is a LePage-appointed trustee of the Maine Community College and University of Maine systems, is the only Augusta outsider to join the Republican race so far.

His campaign, however, is being run by insiders close to LePage, including Brent Littlefield, a strategist who ran LePage’s 2010 and 2014 bids, and Lauren LePage, the governor’s daughter. Moody didn’t take questions from the assembled media after his speech.

Those conservative stalwarts are backing a candidate who only enrolled in the Republican Party last month and ran for governor into 2010 as a “regular guy” independent. Moody came in fourth with just 5 percent of the vote then.

However, a primary win would provide a base and Moody looked to strike a careful balance while pitching as a unifying Republican on Tuesday. A speaker introducing him compared him to the late U.S. Sen. Margaret Chase Smith and two of her successors, William Cohen and Olympia Snowe, three of the state’s moderate Republican legends.

But Moody echoed LePage’s conservative messages on welfare, saying empowering people doesn’t mean “just giving them things” and that “going without can be a pretty good motivator.” He highlighted his business experience as a key asset.

“For every individual in the state who is tired of getting by,” he said, “it’s time for Maine to get ahead.”

Moody leaned conservative in 2010, but he also took positions antithetical to many Republicans. He opposed charter schools and was mostly “pro-choice” on abortion, according to The Bollard’s 2010 voter guide. Moody’s new website says he opposes taxpayer-funded abortion.

He’s the 21st candidate in the gubernatorial race overall. In addition to the five Republicans, the field includes nine Democrats, four independents, two Greens and a Libertarian.

Possible top-tier hopefuls include Attorney General Janet Mills, former Maine House Speaker Mark Eves and attorney and Army veteran Adam Cote — all Democrats — and unenrolled Maine State Treasurer Terry Hayes.

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Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...