Independent Alan Caron is focused on the need to build a new economy for Maine "from the ground up," and he said a governor independent of the two gridlocked major parties is needed for that project.

Caron, 66, of Freeport, is one of four candidates vying to replace Paul LePage. He is running against fellow independent Terry Hayes, Democrat Janet Mills and Republican Shawn Moody.

Caron grew up in a blue-collar family of mill workers and farmers in Waterville and left school in the ninth grade to work loading trucks, in mills and as a carpenter. Later he earned a master's degree from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

Since 1978 he has run his own business, Caron Communications, which he said has been involved in many big projects, including modernizing Bath Ironworks. More than a decade ago, he started GrowSmart Maine, which assembled people in the state who wanted to think about the future of Maine in a positive way and deal with the challenge of maintaining the state's character while allowing growth.

He said he also brought the Brookings Institution to Maine, which conducted 30 listening sessions and issued the report, "Charting Maine's Future." Caron said that report is a road map for the state.

He has also authored two books: "Maine's Next Economy" and "Reinventing Maine Government."

Now he hopes to bring his vision to the Blaine House.

Caron said he would like to reduce income taxes in Maine. In part, he called for streamlining government, including cuts to layers of management within programs.

He also said that the state spends $500 million in growing jobs through tax breaks and low-interest loans with results that have been a "dismal failure as a strategy." He said these incentives are supposed to go to those who create jobs, but often are given out based on the region, the type of business, how good the business is at public relations and how well it is connected in Augusta. He argued that incentives should come after the jobs are created, with businesses reporting the number of jobs they created on their tax forms.

This is part of his overall plan of turning away from the old strategy of focusing on attracting jobs "from away," and instead aiming tax incentives at small, homegrown businesses. He argued that many of the success stories in Maine have been with these types of businesses, such as organic farmers, foodies and breweries.

He also said this strategy will help Maine retain more of its young people and alleviate the problem of the state's dwindling workforce.

Caron sees the state's drug problem as a growing crisis that reflects underlying economic malaise and loss of hope. He also criticized Democrats and Republicans for gridlock, with one side arguing for programs and the other arguing for law enforcement.

"We need leadership that has a demonstrated ability to bring people together across the spectrum," he said. "I've done this for years with large gatherings all over the state." He said leaders have to listen, respect differences and focus on the common ground.

He said Congress should stand up to the drug companies and take fewer contributions.

On a national level, Caron supports government-paid health care similar to that in other countries. He said Maine, with its limited resources, needs a national partner.

He said he would support the Medicaid expansion.

He criticized LePage, saying that only in the last eight years has he seen the government willfully ignore the vote of the people.

On the issue of citizen initiatives in general, he was supportive of the right of Maine citizens to put items on the ballot, but like some of the other candidates, he wants to see less money coming in from out of state to put partisan issues on our ballots.

Caron supports gun rights, especially for hunters, and noted that when he was growing up hunting was part of how his family obtained food. He said he does not support state funding for armed officers in schools, which he characterized as militarizing schools.

Caron promised that if he is elected he will change the tone in Augusta to one that is more positive. He sees partisan bickering as a disease of negativity.

"It's not really who we are as a people. We're generally people who work together, who are tenacious, who are creative, who are resourceful, but we're not nasty and divisive and insulting to each other."

He said he believes LePage thinks he is an autocrat.

"One party wants to move us backwards and the other wants us to move sideways," Caron said. He said neither is the right choice for Maine and asserted that an independent has an opportunity to unite people.