Republican gubernatorial primary candidate Shawn Moody is congratulated by supporters stops at his body shop in Gorham Tuesday night.

Businessman Shawn Moody emerged victorious in a four-way Republican primary field for governor Tuesday. The Bangor Daily News and Decision Desk HQ called the race for Moody at approximately 12:30 a.m., determining from unofficial results that he would garner more than 50 percent of votes cast in the primary.

Moody, 58, of Gorham easily outpaced the rest of the field with roughly 55 percent of the vote, according to unofficial returns, which is enough to avoid a ranked-choice vote tally in the election. He ran away from Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason of Lisbon, former Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew of China and House Minority Leader Ken Fredette of Newport.

Moody told approximately 60 supporters in Gorham at around 11 p.m. that he was feeling “very positive and optimistic.”

“We’re going to work for the whole state — north, south, east and west. We’re going to take our state back,” Moody said.

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Moody in the top position to win the Republican nod would have been unthinkable in 2010, when the affable self-made millionaire who founded an eponymous collision repair chain at age 17 ran as a longshot independent for governor against LePage and three others, saying he was neither a “liberal” nor a “conservative.”

Moody converted to a LePage-style Republican last year, when he joined his new party less than six weeks before announcing his run with members of the governor’s inner circle working for him, including strategist Brent Littlefield. The governor’s daughter, Lauren LePage, was Moody’s spokeswoman.

LePage has been a focal figure in the primary given his high level of popularity with Maine Republicans. The four candidates have attached themselves to him to varying degrees, but it has been clear that his effect and appeal to his party won’t easily transfer to another politician.

The hopefuls have tried to own fragments of it. Moody likened his outsider status to that of LePage. While the governor managed a discount store chain before assuming the Blaine House, he had far more political experience than Moody after eight years as Waterville’s mayor.

Mayhew was the executor of LePage’s welfare agenda. She has touted her role in the state’s improved fiscal position and her policies led to sharp declines in the number of Mainers on Medicaid and children in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. But she is a former Democratic operative and hospital lobbyist who is far more of a technocrat than LePage.

Mason and Fredette noted their experience in shepherding conservative reforms through the Legislature. But Mason’s more moderate Senate caucus warred with LePage during 2015 and 2017 budget fights and while Fredette is one of the governor’s staunchest legislative allies, his campaign began late and never took off as he tended to business in Augusta.

It is unclear how Moody would pivot to the general election. His campaign presented few policy ideas, but it overcame stances he took in 2010 that are antithetical to most Republicans. For example, he said that people’s choices on abortion are “up to them to make” during that campaign. He is now deemed “pro-life” by the Christian Civic League of Maine.

BDN staff writers Jake Bleiberg and Michael Shepherd contributed to this report.

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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...