SKOWHEGAN — Without doing much to distinguish themselves from each other, four of the five Republican candidates for governor laid out their case for voters Saturday night for why they deserve to be elected to the Blaine House this coming fall.

At the Lincoln Day Gubernatorial Dinner, hosted by the Somerset County Republican Committee of Maine, the four candidates in attendance all promoted themselves as anti-abortion and pro-gun ownership Republicans with a vision to move Maine forward. The candidates included state Rep. Kenneth Fredette, former commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services Mary Mayhew, businessman Shawn Moody, and state Sen. Michael Thibodeau. The fifth Republican candidate for the Blaine House, state Sen. Garrett Mason, was not in attendance.

The dinner, which was hosted at the T&B Celebration Center, also featured state Sen. Eric Brakey, a Republican who is challenging Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, for his seat in the United States senate this year. Brakey, who likely faces an uphill challenge against the very popular King, chastised Washington, D.C. as being a city of rich elitists who “steal from the rest of us.” Brakey, who was elected to the state senate at 26 when he defeated a Democratic incumbent, said he came into politics during the Tea Party wave, which is a conservative movement loosely associated with the Republican Party nationally that first came around in 2009.

“He has a nice mustache, he rides a motorcycle, he got us a lobster Emoji,” Brakey said, while saying he is a candidate who would “protect the Constitution.”

Brakey, who said he first ran for elected office out of concern with elected officials spending too much, likened himself to parable of David versus Goliath from the Bible for his run against King, saying that while King is “big, the bigger they are, the harder they fall.”

“He is so big and out of touch all we have to do is take aim and swing,” Brakey said.

King won with more than 50 percent of the vote in a three-way race in 2012.

As for the candidates vying for the Blaine House, they were asked a series of seven questions before a crowded T&B Celebration Center. In addition to labeling themselves as anti-abortion and in favor of the Second Amendment, each of the four called for changes for Right to Work Laws. Moody, who championed himself as a small business founder, said it’s critical to bring blue collar jobs back to Maine and said teenagers who want to work are “brought down by the economy.” He said laws now prohibit teenagers from doing much at all at a business like his — Moody’s Collision Center — which “won’t let them do what I did to lift myself from poverty to prosperity.”

“We need to change out labor laws to allow our teens to back into our society and our economy,” Moody said.

Mayhew, touting her experience with DHHS, said despite having a staff of 3,600 in the department, she only had the capacity to hire or fire 23 employees when she worked there. The rest were all protected by a union contract or public service law, she said. She said not having the ability to fire a non-performing employee who was protected by a union hurt other hard working employees.

Thibodeau said not having right-to-work in Maine is a drag on the economy, and said not letting younger people enter the workforce is a drain on their learning opportunities. Fredette also said the state needs to get its teenagers working, and also said the raise in minimum wage up to $10 per hour was a detriment to the rural parts of the state.

“The reality is, if you’re down in York or Cumberland County, do you think they’re worried about a $10 minimum wage?” Fredette asked. “Up here in rural Maine, it’s a real issue. If you’re running that little country store, it’s a big deal and it’s putting people out of business.”

When asked how they plan to bring businesses to Maine, the candidates largely cited bureaucratic hurdles that they see keeping businesses out of the state. Thibodeau said he would be a governor who goes out and sells Maine as a pro-business state to the corporate world.

“We can do tremendous things,” Thibodeau said.

Fredette said the state, especially the Second District and its rural parts, needs to embrace apprenticeship programs, and listed Bath Iron Works and Cianbro as examples of companies already doing that. Mayhew said the “liberal socialists” in Augusta often stand in the way of business development by not respecting already existing businesses. She said the state needs to let businesses know that hard work is valued, and that the state shouldn’t “pay people to sit on a couch and not work.”

“To attract businesses to our state we have to respect those here today,” she said.

Moody again cited his work as a business owner and his experience with bureaucracy. He said when he first went for a building permit to build his business, it was a one-time cost of $35. Today, he said before he could even file for a permit, he’d have to pay for a $1,400 Department of Environmental Protection Agency order.

“Bureaucracy is crushing us,” Moody said.

All the candidates but Moody said they would support whoever the Republican nominee for governor in the fall is. Moody meanwhile didn’t answer the question specifically, but said the goal is to sweep the House, Senate and Blaine House for Republicans.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis

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