FALMOUTH — U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud’s path to the Democratic nomination for governor got a little clearer Wednesday.
Steve Woods, a business owner, Yarmouth town councilor and 2012 U.S. Senate candidate, dropped his own candidacy for the nomination and endorsed Michaud.
Woods said his campaign, launched last fall, had become focused too much on blaming Gov. Paul LePage for the state’s problems and not enough on solutions. Michaud, he said, offers the best opportunity to solve Maine’s problems, which he said include a stagnant economy and the departure of young adults to other states.
Michaud said he appreciated Woods’ decision to drop out, which leaves the Democratic field open to Michaud. No other prominent Democrat has indicated a desire to run.
Without a challenge in the June primary, Michaud can marshal his money for the general election.
Michaud said he isn’t concerned about a three-way race for governor, with LePage and Michaud joined by independent Eliot Cutler. He said his decision to run for governor wasn’t predicated on anyone dropping out.
Cutler made a late charge at LePage in the gubernatorial election of 2010 but lost some votes to Elizabeth Mitchell, the Democratic candidate. LePage won with about 39 percent of the vote.
Woods and Michaud criticized LePage on Wednesday for some of his comments during his term as governor, without stepping directly into this week’s controversy about whether the governor said President Barack Obama “hates white people.”
Republicans who asked not to be identified told the Portland Press Herald that LePage made the comment during a party fundraiser this month.
Woods said LePage has disparaged Maine schools, teachers and students. Michaud said the governor’s comments cast the state in a bad light and discourage investment by outside companies.
Brent Littlefield, LePage’s political adviser, issued a statement late Wednesday saying that “Michael Michaud is the last person who should be lecturing anyone on business.”
Littlefield said Michaud voted against “job creators” 61 percent of the time since he’s been in Congress, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Woods was one of three independents in last year’s six-candidate race for U.S. Senate, won by independent Angus King.
Woods got slightly more than 10,000 votes, less than 1.5 percent of the total. He dropped his campaign and endorsed King a few days before the election but remained on the ballot.
Woods runs a company in Falmouth called TideSmart, an umbrella firm with six subsidiary companies. He’s also the chairman of the Yarmouth Town Council.