Terry Hayes ’80 says she never planned on running for office. The first time she did, she lost, only to rebound and win six races over the following decade. After eight years in the Maine House of Representatives and nearly four as the State Treasurer, she has identified partisan bickering as the central cause of the state’s problems.
In April 2017, Hayes was the first candidate to file to run for governor of Maine. As a candidate without a party affiliation, she is polling around 10 percent, according to the most recent numbers.
After term-limited governor Paul LePage won with less than 50 percent of the vote in 2010 and 2014, some have worries that Hayes could play a spoiler. But she’s more focused on spreading her message.
“Many times our challenges are not partisan,” Hayes said. “And our solutions shouldn’t be either.”
Born in Portland, Hayes graduated from Catherine McAuley High School, an all-girls Catholic school. The nuns there, she recalled, were less than encouraging about her desire to attend the then predominantly male and Protestant Bowdoin.
Hayes, however, liked what she had heard about the College from a coworker at McDonald’s, so she applied anyway and was admitted. She was glad to stay in Maine for college, she said, although Brunswick still felt far away.
“I did not have a car. So it didn’t really matter that it was only a half hour from Portland,” she said.
Hayes majored in government and minored in education. She formed valuable relationships with faculty and staff, including former Director of Financial Aid Walter Moulton and Paul Hazelton, a longtime education professor at Bowdoin. She also sat on the Student Activities Fee Committee, which was responsible for delegating the money collected through students’ activity fees.
In retrospect, it seems like a precursor to her stint as State Treasurer, but Hayes insists she wasn’t thinking about a career in politics at the time.
She participated in the occasional campus protest—“it wasn’t the sixties; we just wanted to have been here in the sixties,” she said—and hoped to attend law school after graduation. But with over $9,000 of debt (or $28,000 today), she decided to get a job instead. She worked as a middle school teacher in Oakland, Maine and then moved up to the high school, where she taught civics.
She got married and moved again, first to Lewiston and then to Buckfield, Maine. She never went to law school, although she did earn her MBA from Thomas College in 2014.
“I had a husband to put through school and then three children. Then in was my turn,” she said.
In Buckfield, Hayes served on the school board for 13 years. Still, she says she wasn’t planning to pursue higher office until her retiring state representative Rosita Gagne asked her to run for the open seat.
She ran as a Democrat for Gagne’s seat, but lost to Republican Bruce Hanley.
“Losing sucks by the way, being a technical term,” Hayes said. “[But] we live in a representative democracy, right? If there’s only one name on the ballot, you might as well be in the Soviet Union … So being a loser in a representative democracy is no source of shame.”
In 2006, however, she challenged Hanley and won by a margin of just 15 votes. She was worried she was underprepared to assume state office, but it turned out she didn’t have to be.
“Women have a tendency not to pursue a job until they feel like they have 100 percent of the qualifications. Men get over 50 and they say, ‘Well hell, let’s go for it,’” she said. “I think that I was concerned that I wouldn’t know enough. You know, that I hadn’t been paying attention. I was raising my kids, being on the school board, running my business, and it turns out that whatever I had been doing before was more than adequate to prepare me, but it took me a while to figure that out.”
She was re-elected to the Maine House three times, in 2008, 2010 and 2012.
Her greatest legislative accomplishment, she said, came in 2011. The previous electoral year had been a strong one for Republicans, and they controlled both houses of the Maine legislature as well as the governorship, which was occupied by the newly-elected Paul LePage.
One issue in the legislature that year was reforming the system of governance for Maine’s more than 10 million acres of unorganized territory. A committee was appointed by LePage, Senate President Kevin L. Raye and Speaker of the House Robert Nutting to address the issue, but some Democrats weren’t happy, Hayes explained, because all 13 members were Republicans.
Hayes, who was assistant minority leader at the time, felt differently.
“I tried to persuade my caucus that all of their meetings were going to be public,” she said. “We didn’t have to be at the table … we just had to show up.”
So she attended the committee’s six public meetings, and when its report came before the legislature in 2012, she could attest to its “thoroughness.” The legislative result, “An Act To Reform Land Use Planning in the Unorganized Territory,” passed in May of 2012.
“We ended up with a good outcome that ended up being bipartisan. And to me that was probably the best thing,” Hayes said.
She was re-elected to her fourth term in 2012 but found herself growing disillusioned with the Democratic party.
“The party was really focused on perpetuating itself and not necessarily on solving challenges,” she said. “The election in 2012 was brutal. The Republicans were trying to hold onto the majorities in the House and the Senate, and the Democrats were trying to earn them back. And from my vantage point, I don’t think that either party has stopped campaigning since that season.”
After Democrats won a House majority in 2012, Hayes ran for Speaker. She lost, however, to Mark Eves. (Coincidentally, Eves also ran for governor this year but lost to Janet Mills in the Democratic primary.)
Hayes was term-limited, so she couldn’t run for her House seat again in 2014. That year, she supported independent candidate Eliot Cutler for governor. Cutler won 8.4 percent of the vote, while LePage was re-elected with 48.2 percent, beating out both Cutler and Democrat Mike Michaud.
After the election, Hayes unenrolled from the Democratic Party. In December, she challenged incumbent Neria Douglass for State Treasurer—a position elected by the legislature. She won and then was re-elected to the office in 2016.
The following spring, she filed to run for governor. Her inspiration, she said, was her frustration with the “pendulum politics” and partisan gridlock that have dominated Maine’s political landscape in recent years.
“I see the potential for where we could take Maine, if we could realize that we’re all on the same team, that challenges aren’t Republican challenges or Democratic challenges,” she said. “They’re Maine’s challenges. And if that doesn’t mean we always agree, it just means we come at them focused on the problem, not focused on each other.”
Hayes may have an aversion to partisanship, but it hasn’t protected her from partisan attacks.
An ad released by the Maine Republican Party last week attacked both Mills and Hayes, saying the latter “supports universal healthcare” and “far-left environmental policies”—claims that her campaign decried as false.
Polling for the race is scarce. A poll by Suffolk University in early August had Mills and Republican candidate Shawn Moody tied with 39 percent of the vote share each, with Hayes coming in a distant third with four percent. Businessman Alan Caron polled at three percent.
A second poll, commissioned by the Hayes campaign and conducted by Slingshot Strategies at the end of September, found Mills leading Moody 41-31, while Hayes’ vote share had climbed to 10 percent. That poll also asked likely voters about how their preferences would change if ranked-choice voting was used for the gubernatorial election. Fifty-one percent of respondents listed Hayes as their second choice.
Ranked choice voting, though, isn’t in play for this year’s gubernatorial election. And while some Democrats have expressed concerns that Hayes could play the role of a spoiler, she says the bigger danger is electing another partisan to the Blaine House.
“Right now, the bulk of what gets passed is passed by the dominant party, which means that it’s likely to change when the dominance changes,” she said. “The cost of government doesn’t go down, but the meaningful outcomes are diminished significantly … I believe, if we elect another partisan, we lock this in for Maine.”