The only thing that's clear about next year's race for Governor of Maine is that everything is unclear. The candidates aren't very well known and voters don't have a clear preference for which party they would like to see controlling the Governor's office.
Generally speaking 30% of the voters say they would prefer a Democrat to 26% for a Republican and 18% for an independent or third party candidate. It's worth remembering that the last time Democrats controlled the White House and Congress the state elected an independent, Angus King, as Governor in the next election. The political conditions right now, in which voters tend to be unhappy with both the Democrats and the Republicans, would seem to make that again a possibility.
It's easier to make a list of who's not running for Governor in Maine than who is so we just chose to poll on a couple of the leading Democratic candidates and a couple of the leading Republican candidates to get a general feel for the state of the race at this early stage.
State Senate President Libby Mitchell is the best known of the quartet we tested, and 66% of respondents didn't know enough about her to have formed an opinion one way or the other. 69% have no opinion about repeat Republican candidate Peter Mills, and 75% are ambivalent toward former Democratic Attorney General Steve Rowe and Republican businessman Les Otten.
Mills does the best in head to head contests, leading Mitchell 34-31 and Rowe 33-25. Otten trails both of the Democrats, by a 34-26 margin against Mitchell and a 28-26 one against Rowe.
What does this all tell us? Maine might have the most wide open Gubernatorial contest in the whole country for 2010. A Democrat could win, a Republican could win, an independent or third party candidate could win. And there are a lot of different people who could win within each of those categories as well. It's going to be a bit of a free for all, and that will make it an interesting contest to watch.
Full results here