WASHINGTON — Eliot Cutler, the independent candidate who narrowly lost to Republican Gov. Paul LePage in 2010, said Thursday that he fully intends to run for governor again next year and has appointed several key members of his campaign staff.
Cutler’s announcement – made in an email to supporters and in a radio interview – is no surprise. The Cape Elizabeth resident has purposely stayed in Maine’s political spotlight since 2010, and formed a campaign committee earlier this year.
“While we will wait to make a formal announcement until after Labor Day, I can tell you now that I fully intend to be a candidate, and we are hard at work laying the groundwork for a winning campaign,” Cutler said in the email.
Cutler also confirmed his intentions Thursday morning on WGAN’s “Morning News with Ken and Mike,” making it clear that Maine will likely have at least a three-way race for governor again in 2014.
Asked whether he will run, Cutler surprised the hosts when he replied simply, “I am,” but then said he would not formally announce until after Labor Day.
“It would be really disingenuous for me to pretend I am not running for governor,” Cutler said, but he is following “a rhythm” to campaigns that he believes is important.
“There is a time when a formal campaign begins,” he said. “It is generally after Labor Day on the year preceding the election. I am going to respect that. I am going to make a formal announcement in September.”
Maine’s 2014 gubernatorial election is on track to be at least a three-way race. In 2010, LePage, Cutler and Democrat Libby Mitchell were the three top contenders. LePage survived a late surge by Cutler to win by about 2 percentage points as Mitchell and Cutler divided the Democratic and more moderate and independent vote.
Brent Littlefield, senior political advisor to LePage, said many Mainers will greet Cutler’s statements with a yawn and suggested that the independent is cozy with major fundraisers in Washington.
“This is not a secret,” Littlefield said in a prepared statement. “After spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money on his campaign, and on other exploits like One Maine, it is clear that politician Eliot Cutler could not give up on his personal dream of becoming governor.”
One remaining question for 2014 is who the Democrats will field to avoid a situation in which LePage – a conservative Republican who is highly unpopular with Democrats – wins with a plurality of the vote in a three-way race.
Democrats are waiting to hear whether U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud will join the race. Michaud has said he is considering running but he has not committed himself.
Former Gov. John Baldacci, who served the two terms before LePage, has said that he would run again, but only if Michaud declines.
Cutler, who is already being labeled a potential spoiler in 2014, said he would not run if he didn’t “absolutely” believe that he can win.
“The last person in the state of Maine that wants to see Paul LePage re-elected is Eliot Cutler,” he said on WGAN.
In his email to supporters, Cutler said he is emboldened by the moral and financial support he has received in recent months; he mentioned a recent fundraising event that added $100,000 to his campaign account.
He also announced several staff positions in his campaign.
Ted O’Meara will return as campaign manager while Brandon Maheu of Fairfield will serve as field director. Maheu helped with the Maine Democratic Party’s campaign to reclaim the state House last year and worked on the 2010 gubernatorial campaign of Democrat Pat McGowan.
Kevin Miller – 317-6256