The Blaine House in Augusta is pictured on May 6, 2020. Credit: Natalie Williams

AUGUSTA, Maine – A Washington County physician qualified for the November gubernatorial ballot on Friday, joining Gov. Janet Mills and former Gov. Paul LePage in the high-profile race.

Sam Hunkler, a retired doctor from Beals, submitted more than 4,000 valid signatures to the secretary of state’s office on Friday, just a few days ahead of the deadline for unenrolled candidates.

He is of a different mold than previous independent candidates for governor, who were often former lawmakers, such as Terry Hayes in 2018, or independently wealthy businessmen, such as Eliot Cutler in 2010 and 2014.

Hunkler has promised his campaign will stand for a “different way of governance” and “finding common ground.” His website mentions issues such overhauling substance use disorder treatment, reforming property tax laws and creating living-wage jobs, although he is light on specifics, saying he would rather listen to others than press his stances on issues.

He is self-funding the effort and not accepting campaign contributions, although he had only put $1,000 toward his campaign through April 26, according to filings with the state’s ethics regulator. He did not immediately respond to a phone call on Friday afternoon.

According to his campaign website, Hunkler was born in a small town in Ohio and moved to Maine as an adult, working as a medical resident at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston and later an emergency room physician in Blue Hill, Ellsworth and Machias. He retired in 2021 but maintains a small private practice.

Maine has a long history of third-party candidates in gubernatorial elections. LePage’s victories in 2010 and 2014 despite falling short of receiving 50 percent of the vote, were part of the impetus for the state to adopt ranked-choice voting.

However, ranked-choice voting is not used in state-level general elections, including the governor’s race, after Maine’s high court advised in 2017 it would go against the state constitution. Mills and LePage will advance to the ballot after Maine’s June 14 primaries, in which both are running unopposed.