PORTLAND — The next gubernatorial election in Maine is nearly three years away, but that hasn’t stopped Gov. Paul LePage from forming a re-election committee, holding a fundraiser and launching a re-election website.

While it’s unusual to get under way so soon, the early start gives LePage an edge in building up his political war chest and political organization, whether or not he decides to run for a second four-year term.

By having the paperwork in place, LePage will have money for political expenses such as fundraising, political travel, staffing, polling or political mailings, said Anthony Corrado, a political science professor at Colby College in Waterville.

“That work takes time, so beginning now will certainly give him a big lead over any potential opponent in the next gubernatorial cycle,” Corrado said.

Brent Littlefield, LePage’s senior political adviser, insisted the governor’s actions are not so unusual. In Congress, it’s not uncommon for U.S. senators and representatives to file paperwork and raise money for upcoming elections shortly after winning an election, he said.

Although LePage has set the wheels in motion to run in the 2014 election, a final decision won’t be made for a couple of years, Littlefield said.

“The governor is driven to fix the Maine budget and to improve the Maine economy and is committed to doing whatever has to be done to get those goals accomplished,” he said. “Whether that will take four years or eight years, that’s a determination he will make.”

LePage’s predecessor, former Gov. John Baldacci, didn’t file paperwork for his re-election campaign until October 2005, some 13 months before the 2006 election. Baldacci was elected governor in 2002 and again in 2006.

LePage filed paperwork for his re-election in August, just seven months after he was sworn in as governor. He has since launched a re-election campaign website, LePage2014. On Tuesday, he held a fundraiser in Augusta seeking contributions between $500 and $3,000.

LePage’s campaign will have to file campaign finance reports beginning Jan. 17, but the contributions from Tuesday’s fundraiser won’t become public until the following report six months later. Littlefield declined to talk about fundraising activities.

David Farmer, a political strategist and Baldacci’s former deputy chief of staff, said the signs are there that LePage intends to run in 2014.

“He has the appearance of not enjoying the job, of being angry, of not liking the legislative process. But until he says he’s not running, all the evidence says he is,” said Farmer, a critic of LePage. “You don’t form a re-election committee unless you want to seek re-election. You don’t start raising money three years out unless you’re running for re-election.”

Sandy Maisel, a long-time political observer and political science professor at Colby, said he wondered if LePage is trying to send a signal.

“I can’t imagine what the logic is, what the hurry is,” Maisel said. “Is he trying to frighten other Republicans away? He isn’t going to frighten Democrats away. Or maybe enough people have talked about him being a one-term governor that he wants to send a signal he’s not.”

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