Maine Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason announced Thursday he will be the third Republican to enter the 2018 race for governor.

Mason, R-Lisbon, had previously planned to announce his bid to replace outgoing Republican Gov. Paul LePage but delayed it after the unexpected death of his mother, state Rep. Gina Mason. LePage is finishing his second term and cannot run again because of term limits.

Mason was to make the announcement official during an event in Lewiston on Thursday night but told Portland-based WGAN talk radio hosts Matt Gagnon and Ken Altshuler his campaign is underway.

Mason, 32, is the youngest candidate to join the race so far and would be the youngest governor in state history by five months if he is elected in November 2018.

In all, 16 candidates are now running, including eight Democrats and three Republicans.

Mason will face off against former Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew and House Minority Leader Ken Fredette in the June 2018 primary.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, has also said she may run for governor and is expected to make a decision soon.

Mason said he believed Collins could best serve Maine by staying in the Senate but also voiced his “respect” for the senior member of the state’s congressional delegation.

Mason said his campaign would focus on a “Maine first” agenda, echoing President Trump’s inaugural address that focused on an “America first” theme.

“I’m a lifelong conservative,” Mason said, “that’s who I am, it’s not something I came to.”

He also cited his record in the state Senate as a lawmaker who can broker bipartisan deals. “I have a proven record of success and of being able to collaborate with the other side, when I need to, to get the job done.”

But Mason also took aim at the large field of potential Democratic opponents, saying, “What you see in that field is a party that is grasping for the same thing, basically socialist ideologies.”

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 791-6330 or at:

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