Lisa Savage, a Green candidate for U.S. Senate from Solon, speaks at a party event in Portland on Nov. 30, 2019.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Green Independent Party will go at least 15 years without fielding a candidate for statewide office after a U.S. Senate hopeful said Monday she would unenroll from the third party for an easier path to the November ballot.

The campaign of Lisa Savage, a Solon educator, had been struggling to meet the statutory requirement of getting signatures from 2,000 Greens by the March 15 deadline to qualify for the primary in June where party candidates are officially nominated for the general election.

Savage said in a Monday news release that she will continue her bid as an unenrolled candidate. She will have to gather 4,000 signatures to make the ballot, but the signatures can come from any registered Maine voter and her deadline to turn them in will be June 1.

In a statement, Savage said her platform “remains as Green as ever” and she will seek the party’s endorsement. Greens haven’t fielded a candidate for statewide office since the 2006 gubernatorial election, though their ranks grew by 25 percent over 10 years.

The party is still small, with 41,000 members last year. There are eight times more Democrats and seven times more Republicans, yet the parties face the same hurdle to qualify for primary ballot access. Greens have traditionally enrolled new members to meet the threshold.

It was harder for Greens this year because of the high-profile Democratic presidential primary on March 3. Mainers who were in other parties had until Valentine’s Day to register as Democrats in time to vote, while unenrolled voters can join until Election Day and still vote.

The Savage campaign said it was running into many backers of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Democratic front-runner, who were sympathetic to Savage’s progressive platform but didn’t want to risk an inability to vote in the presidential primary. Senate primaries are in June.

Ranked-choice voting is in play for the 2020 election in which U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, is facing a national test from Democrats. Four are running for their party’s nomination — House Speaker Sara Gideon, lobbyist Betsy Sweet, former Google executive Ross LaJeunesse and lawyer Bre Kidman.

Savage joins several other independents vying for a spot on the ballot. They include two conservatives — Max Linn, a retired financial planner who disqualified from the Republican U.S. Senate primary ballot in 2018, and Linda Wooten, a former Republican state committee member — and lawyer Tiffany Bond, who ran for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District in 2018.

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...