WATERVILLE — Gubernatorial nominee Eliot Cutler continued to criticize the lack of leadership from Gov. Paul LePage and tried to reassure Democrats that a three-way gubernatorial race would not mean another LePage victory Wednesday night.

“There has not been leadership from the Blaine House that lays out a strategy saying how we all can succeed in this state,” Cutler said in front of roughly 25 people at the Universalist Unitarian Church of Waterville.

Cutler, an Independent who announced his candidacy for the 2014 gubernatorial race in September, emphasized his plans to turn around the state, including what to do about caring for Maine’s aging population, health care concerns, environmental issues and business development.

But the biggest question many have is whether a Cutler candidacy will split the liberal vote, as it did in 2010, when LePage won with 38 percent of the vote, trailed by Cutler with 36 percent and Mitchell with 19 percent.

Cutler disagreed that 2014 would be a potential repeat.

“The story the Democratic party wants you to believe is that LePage might win again if this happens,” Cutler said. “I’ll tell you now that he won’t. He’s unelectable. It feeds into their argument, but I’m not a spoiler.”

“This is a state with extraordinary assets,” Cutler said, adding that his plan encourages young farmers and business owners who have a two- or four-year college degree to come to Maine for potential student loan relief. Cutler’s plan, outlined in his 114-page book, calls for the state to forgive income tax liability for payments against student debt so long as a graduate lives in Maine and works in the state for a prescribed period of time in the hopes of building business and making the state demographic younger.

“It would be the modern-day equivalent of 40 acres and a mule,” Cutler said, citing the technique to develop the West after the Civil War.

Cutler touched on Maine health care and the lack of expansion of MaineCare, Maine’s version of Medicaid, under LePage.

“We left a billion dollars on the table by not setting up a market place for the Affordable Health Care Act,” Cutler said. “I think health care is a right every man, woman and child should have with no exceptions because it’s the right thing to do morally and ethically, and it’s the smart thing to do economically.”.”

Linda Davis, a retired English teacher at Waterville High School, said that she attended the meet-and-greet to get more information on the candidate.

“I hadn’t met him before, and thought he may be a good candidate,” Davis said. Her main worry was whether the state would be able to keep caring for its aging population.

“I hope there is one politician that has a formula to get us so we’re not further behind,” Davis said. “He agreed with me, and he seemed to know what the problems are.”

Cutler joins LePage and Democratic nominee Mike Michaud in the race for Maine’s 2014 gubernatorial seat. Independents Adam Eldridge, Lee Schultheis and David Slagger have also filed the paperwork to run for the seat.

Before campaigning in Waterville, Cutler visited the Fryeburg Fair on Saturday.

Cutler started off his gubernatorial campaign in Bangor on Sept. 24, before traveling to Portland on the same day. On Sept. 26, Cutler visited the Front Street Shipyard in Belfast and a fundraising campaign in Camden. At the end of September, Cutler took part in a panel discussion at Husson University entitled “Independent Voters and Independent Candidates – Who are they and Why aren’t they part of the parties?”

Cutler, an attorney from Cape Elizabeth, has never held public office. He started his career as a legislative assistant to Democratic U.S. Sen. Edmund Muskie and served as the natural resources and energy policy adviser to former President Jimmy Carter.

Jesse Scardina — 861-9239

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