Rensenbrink says the new rules make it "more difficult for us to arouse our own forces" to back a Green gubernatorial bid, and says the effort shows that the Democrats are afraid of facing a Green candidate next year, when the governor's seat will be vacated by John Baldacci.

Lynne Williams, the Bar Harbor attorney who has already declared she will seek the governorship for the Green Party, says the new rules are "a paradox," in that the Clean Election system exists to take money out of politics, but now requires fundraising. "All the time that I could be meeting with voters, I'm calling people and asking them for money," she says.

Anna Trevorrow, chairman of the Maine Green Independent Party, says "Maine has always been looked at as a leader" in leveling the playing field for third-party candidates, creating a system where "candidates could compete based on their ideas and not on their ability to raise money." She says the new goals are "just above what the Greens have been able to achieve in the past."

Pingree and Russell, though, think setting high goals is a good idea. "I think it's hard, but I think it's fair," Russell says.

And for the Greens, who have always based their work on grass-roots efforts, there may be some hope. Williams says her campaign has already established offices in eight counties and is readying plans for the other eight; she hopes that level of outreach will create "the skeleton for post-election activity."

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