Craig Benson had never run for or held public office until his campaign in 2002, when he was elected governor.
He smashed a state record by spending $9.6 million, most of it his own money, to win the Sept. 10, 2002, primary. He won with 37 percent to 34 percent for Bruce Keough, a former state senator and university system trustee, and 28 percent for Gordon Humphrey, a former state and U.S. senator.
Benson rebutted charges that he was trying to buy the election by pointing out how actively he campaigned. In the general election, he was criticized for not accepting more invitations for joint appearances with Democrat Mark Fernald.