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Primary Election Profile: Adam Cote


Adam Cote, an attorney with Drummond Woodsum and a member of the Maine Army National Guard for more than 20 years, is among seven Democrats running for governor.

Cote is a decorated combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan who also served in Bosnia. He is co-founder and CEO of Thermal Energy Storage of Maine. He served on the Sanford School Committee and on the board of the Midcoast Regional Development Authority.

In 2008, Cote lost a race for Maine’s 1st District U.S. House seat to Chellie Pingree. He earned a bachelor’s from Colby College and a law degree from the University of Maine School of Law.

Cote told Maine Public’s Steve Mistler there are a number factors that make him stand out from the pack:

Mistler: There are six other Democratic candidates in this race and many of them are promoting similar ideas and issues. But what specific proposals make you different than some of your primary opponents?

Cote: Well, I would actually offer that I’ve been the only candidate that’s been talking about what our state can look like 10 years from now, with a really focused, detailed growth plan that really focuses on infrastructure, workforce training and our competitive advantages.

Mistler: Do you want to elaborate on that? You have some time.

Cote: Sure — infrastructure, broadband being the most important. You can’t sell blueberries outside of Washington County if you don’t have that. We have one of the worst connections in the country. Workforce training — I haven’t been to a business yet in Maine that isn’t having problems with recruiting retention or attrition management. It’s harder to find a plumber or electrician or finish carpenter in this state than it is to find a lawyer. And we’ve got to train a workforce that will prepare us for the needs from today. And lastly, I want to see us focus on our competitive advantages: finding the next generation of forest products, whether it’s cross-laminated timber, bio-based plastics, whether it’s in renewable energy, which I have a particular background and interest in. It’s agriculture, it’s aquaculture, health care industry. We need to focus on a growth plan to increase our tax base and grow our economy.

Mistler: What do you think is the biggest challenge facing this state and what do you think you could do as governor to fix it?

Cote: Well the biggest challenges are: We’re last in New England, one of the last in the country, in jobs, income and economic growth; we have one of the oldest populations in the country; and we are one of only a couple states where population isn’t growing. So, if we’re going to face this demographic cliff of people retiring and getting older, we have to have a growth strategy, we have to be able to create an economy where young people want to be. They want to be innovators, entrepreneurs and grow. It’s got to be a growth plan.

Mistler: How do you do that? What do you propose to do that?

Cote: If we’re going to invest in education health care and the environment, we’ve got to grow. So I see it in three categories: The first is infrastructure, broadband being the most important; the second is workforce training; and the third is our competitive advantages. And with a vision of what this state can look like 10 years from now, I want to see the kids getting out of Jay and Millinocket and Sanford High, where I went to school — they want to be an innovator and entrepreneur, they don’t have that aspirational gap that exists now, where they feel as though they’ve got to go someplace else to do it. I think if we focus on those three things we can create that cultural shift that’s going to be needed to do that.

Mistler: Polls continue to show that jobs are the biggest concern for voters in this state. What else can you do to grow the economy besides broadband, besides looking at ways to grow the forest economy and health care? Is there anything else on the table for you?

Cote: Yeah. It’s a mixed bag, right? Everyone says, “We need jobs.” And then other people say, “Well unemployment is low.” I think that’s just a recognition of the fact that we’re underemployed, that we’re last in jobs, income and economic growth. So, it has to be a strategy that we can afford, that’s targeted, that’s focused. And that’s why it has to be on those three categories: infrastructure, workforce training and competitive advantages. And renewable energy, I should say, as one of those competitive advantages, is something that’s of particular interest to me.

Mistler: Mainers will be using ranked-choice voting in this primary election. Assuming that you will rank yourself as the top choice, how are you going to rank the other candidates?

Cote: Well, I’ve been joking with people that if they’re confused about it, you start at the top left and you just diagonally go down — because I’m alphabetical, right? I haven’t decided, to be honest with you. And I know a lot of folks are talking about ranked choice, and they want my thoughts on it. I support the will of the voters. And I supported ranked-choice voting. Right now I’m not doing anything differently than I would have done, because when I decided to run I didn’t know who else was going to run. I just knew that I was in it.

This interview has been edited for clarity. For a longer version of this interview, aired as part of a Public Affairs special program, click here. For more on Cote’s stances on the issues, and other Democrats in Maine’s gubernatorial race, click here. Visit our Your Vote 2018 page for more elections resources and information.