John Jenkins

John Jenkins, a former state senator and mayor of both Lewiston and Auburn, has registered with the Maine Ethics Commission as a candidate for governor in 2018.

Jenkins, who filed as an independent, is a teacher, motivational speaker and martial arts expert. He became the first and only African-American to be elected to the Maine Senate, representing Lewiston in 1996, when he ran as a Democrat and defeated Paul Madore, a well-know conservative activist.

Jenkins also won a 2007 write-in campaign to become the mayor of Auburn. He had previously served as mayor of Lewiston from 1993 to 1997, making him the only person to ever serve as mayor of both cities.

“This is the people’s campaign,” Jenkins said Thursday. “Lewiston and Auburn trained me to understand how community is supposed to work and when they do work well you have everybody together in the room working together.”

Jenkins, an Auburn resident who currently works as a teacher at Lincoln Academy in Newcastle, said he’s heard from dozens of supporters from around the state urging him to enter what’s become a crowded pre-primary field. Jenkins said he plans a traditional, privately financed campaign, and would count on donations from supporters across the state. He said a formal campaign announcement was in the works, and he was currently in the process of putting together a staff. An official web page would also be launched soon, Jenkins said.

Jenkins, 65, is a New Jersey native but has lived in Maine for decades, graduating from Bates College in 1974 with a degree in psychology. Jenkins made a bid as a write-in candidate for governor in 2010, announcing his campaign just eight weeks before the election that was won by Republican Gov. Paul LePage.


That he was the first African-American to be elected to the state Senate is a simple fact of history, Jenkins said.

“The fact that I’m an African-American doesn’t really qualify me for anything by itself,” Jenkins said. “I really rely on my experience as opposed to my racial designation. The fact that people keep electing me goes well beyond what color I am.”

He also said he intends to run a clean campaign that won’t engage in mud slinging against any opponents, who he said should all be respected.

“People want to see results and that’s what I have always focused on,” Jenkins said. “I’ve learned how to listen to the people and come up with solutions that address their needs. It’s the public first, not the party, not this other stuff, it’s the people.” Jenkins becomes the 19th candidate to enter the race.

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 713-6720 or at:

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