In this May 5, 2018 file photo, gubernatorial candidate Shawn Moody speaks at the Republican Convention in Augusta, Maine. Mainers go to the ballot box, Tuesday, June 12, 2018, to rank candidates for the first time. It's the biggest test yet of ranked-choice voting. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

Businessman wins primary in race to replace Gov. LePage

June 12, 2018 - 11:38 pm

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Republican businessman Shawn Moody won Tuesday's ranked-choice voting primary in the race to succeed Maine's firebrand Gov. Paul LePage.

The founder of a string of auto repair shops won a majority of the vote, meaning there's no need for additional rounds of voting under the voting system used in a statewide primary for the first time in U.S. history.

It's a different story in the Democratic primary as no clear majority winner had emerged Tuesday night.

If that result holds when all of the votes are counted, there would be additional rounds of vote tabulations next week, as election officials eliminate last-place candidates and reallocate votes. The winner of that race may not be known for at least a week.

According to returns tabulated by The Associated Press, Moody was leading businessman Garrett Mason by about 30 percentage points as midnight arrived and more than half of the expected vote counted.

A field of 11 Democrats and Republicans sought their party's nomination for the opportunity to succeed LePage, who streamlined government, lowered taxes and trimmed welfare but also angered some with his harsh tone and policy decisions.

Moody, who as a high school senior founded a successful chain of auto collision centers, has cast himself as the "outsider businessman" in the style of LePage and Republican President Trump.

Moody, 58, has served as a trustee at the University of Maine System and the Maine Community College System. He unsuccessfully ran for governor against LePage as an independent in 2010, and enrolled in the Republican Party last year.

By midday Tuesday, LePage, a long-time opponent of ranked voting, called the election overhaul the "most horrific thing in the world." He threatened not to certify Tuesday's election results, but Maine's top election official quickly said that the governor can't stop primary election results from moving forward.

Democratic Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said the governor could refuse to sign a proclamation of the results but that still wouldn't stop the nominations from taking effect.

"He can bluster," Dunlap said.

LePage, a fiscal conservative who has compared his style to President Donald Trump's, was elected in 2010 in a multicandidate race amid a Tea Party wave of conservatism.

He declined to endorse a candidate, but his family has ties to Moody. LePage's daughter, Lauren, worked for Moody's campaign, and his wife, Ann, endorsed Moody in campaign ads.

The two other Republican candidates are Mary Mayhew, LePage's former health commissioner, and Republican House leader Ken Fredette.