Democrat Adam Cote ’95 runs for governor of Maine

There has not been a Colby alumnus as Maine governor since 1908, but, 100 years later, that could change. Adam Cote ’95, a member of the Democratic party, announced his candidacy for governor on April 19 2017. His campaign slogan “New Leadership, Strong Economy,” speaks to his status as an outside candidate and his decision to run for public office with no formal political experience.

If elected, Cote would not be the first Colby educated governor. Four Colby graduates have served as governor of Maine: Lot M. Morrill, Harris M. Plaisted, Nelson Dingley Jr., and Llewellyn Powers. However, Cote would be the first Colby graduate to be governor in a century; Powers left office in 1908.

Cote ’95 and former Maine Governor Joe Brennan.

Cote has a long standing history in Maine; he has made the conscious decision to stay connected to the state, its people and its economy. He grew up in Sanford, a town that was once dependent on mills, in a blue collar family. He attended Colby and graduated in 1995 with a degree in International Studies. In 2015, at his  20th Colby reunion, he was awarded the Distinguished Alumnus Award for his military service with the National Guard and for his commitment to sustainable energy in Maine as the cofounder and CEO of Maine’s Thermal Energy Storage.

After graduating from Colby, Cote served with the Maine National Guard, completing tours in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. He earned an Army Commendation Medal for his service in Iraq, and a Bronze Star Medal for his work as commander of the 150th Engineer Company in Afghanistan. His work with the Maine National Guard was also impactful closer to home; he received the Meritorious Service Medal in 2017 for his work in communities throughout Maine with the 133rd Engineer Company. He also worked in the renewable energy sector as a lawyer. In 2013, he was appointed as a Champion of Change by President Obama for his work in renewable energy. 

Cote told the Echo that “Colby really opened my eyes to the broader world,” citing his professors, the opportunity to study abroad, and the diverse backgrounds of his classmates as factors that lead him to travel the world as a member of the National Guard and later, as a renewable energy lawyer and expert. Cote said that while Sanford provided an excellent base, “Colby springboarded me to understanding the possibility of the next level life.” He points to a class he took with Professor of Government Guilain Denoeux on political violence where he studied the war in Bosnia and political theory. A year later, he was in Bosnia as a soldier. He was able to put into practice the theory he learned in class in his own life.

Cote ’95 and teammate Rick Catino ’95 on the Colby Football Team.

Cote also addressed Colby’s commitment to Waterville and Maine, not just through its strong student body representation of Maine students, but through its recent economic investments in downtown Waterville. “I really applaud President Greene for this initiative and those that came before him that really pushed it. When I was at Colby it was a much smaller percentage of students from Maine who were at Colby and now it’s a much higher percentage. There’s a real act of outreach going on in the community, not just in the Waterville approach, but things that Colby students are doing statewide.” He appreciates that Colby has acknowledged the symbiotic relationship the College shares with the state, and hopes that this will lead to more Colby students staying in Maine, and not just in Portland.

One of the most important aspects of his platform is his plan to encourage more entrepreneurs and innovators in the state, which he believes can be accomplished by embracing Maine’s history, refraining from referring to people as “from away” to encourage more young people to move to Maine, and fighting the idea that Maine is a great place to live, but only if you can make a living. Cote says he is “trying to create some growth and some opportunity for people.” He envisions Maine being a place that young graduates flock too, like Denver and Austin. He believes that renewable energy is a viable sector, but also points to capitalizing on Maine’s natural resources, like using trees to make cross laminated timber, which can be used as an alternative to steel. Cote also argued that “some of the best beers in the world are coming out of Maine and New England right now,” but they are getting their hops from the Midwest or from Europe, but for farmers in Aroostook county, hops are an alternative crop for potatoes. Cote believes that the mill towns and rural areas of Maine are the future economic powerhouses of the state, the areas with the most potential to grow.

Cote expressed that his belief that he is a unique candidate, with a commitment to sustained and innovative economic growth throughout the state, excellent leadership skills honed through years in the military and as a lawyer, and policy chops from his passion for renewable energy. In a time where people across the country are calling to drain the swamp, and Maine’s own politicians are accused of corruption, his status as an outsider is an asset and something that sets him apart from career politicians.

The Colby community has also rallied around Cote, with Professor of Government Sandy Maisel appearing in a promotional video for the campaign and Colby graduates giving donations to the campaign. Cote told the Echo, “There’s a really strong bond and connection people feel to Colby. For so many of us, it was just a transformative experience of our lives.” He encouraged any alums interested to get involved in a grassroots campaign across the state to show the need for new leadership in Maine. “I’d be honored to have anyone from the Colby community get involved in the campaign.”