AUGUSTA — Eliot Cutler, touring downtown Augusta as he campaigns for governor, asked Polly Blake to read his book to learn about his plan for Maine and, if she liked what she read, to give him her vote come November.
The white-haired Mount Vernon resident, whom her friends described as a staunch Democrat, told the independent candidate she would read his book, but said she had to be honest — he had a long road to travel to win her vote.
Blake said she was worried Cutler would split the vote, taking votes away from Democratic candidate U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, and thus potentially help Republican Gov. Paul LePage win re-election.
“You need to vote for whoever you think would be the best governor,” Cutler said to Blake, who’d just had lunch at Riverfront Barbecue and Grille. “Read the book. And if you think I’d be the better governor, put my sign out on your lawn, put my bumper sticker on your car and stick with me. And, in late October or early November, if you don’t think I have a chance to win, you have my blessings to vote for someone else.”
Cutler said he was a close second to LePage in 2010, losing by about 9,000 votes, a 1.8 percent margin, and he easily received more votes than the Democratic candidate, Libby Mitchell. He added that Maine has only had a two-candidate race for governor once in the last 44 years.
“That’s because Maine voters are independent, and want choices,” Cutler said.
However, he recognizes he faces a battle even for name recognition, despite his finish four years ago, because he faces challengers who hold elected office. He said LePage and Michaud’s names are recognized by 90 to 95 percent of Mainers, but he only has about 65 percent name recognition. That’s one reason he hit the streets and shops of downtown Augusta on Wednesday afternoon. He said he also wanted to chat with small-business owners, especially those downtown, to learn what their challenges, needs and concerns are.
“I’ve learned they have a big problem with capital formation, that it is hard to get capital from banks,” Cutler said in between visits to stores. “A governor ought to be encouraging the banks in Maine to do more lending. LePage does a lot of negative jaw-boning. We need to do some positive jaw-boning.”
Cutler said several Maine downtowns, including Augusta, have “turned it around” after years of stagnation and are on the verge of taking off.
Kyle Engstrom, a boat captain from Union having lunch at the Downtown Diner, said downtown Augusta seemed a lot brighter and had improved dramatically over the last few years. Engstrom told Cutler politics is often just “more of the same” and is heavily influenced by money.
Cutler said he’d work to change that and, when Engstrom asked what his plan was, Cutler gave him a copy of his book.
After Cutler left his table, Engstrom said the candidate seemed nice and, while he hadn’t yet made up his mind who he was going to vote for, Cutler was a good possibility.
Betty and Charles Wilson, of Windsor, dining on spaghetti and meatballs at the Downtown Diner, told Cutler they’d vote for him, as they did in 2010. Charles, a retired farmer, offered to show Cutler how to milk cows, after Cutler joked he came in last at a milking contest between candidates at the Windsor Fair in 2010, the Political Pull.
Betty Wilson said she hoped Cutler will be Maine’s next governor.
“He understands the working man,” Charles Wilson said of Cutler.
At Gabriel’s Jewelry Design & Repair, owner and goldsmith Gabriel Adams explained how he started his business three years ago by working his way from sweeping the parking lot of a jewelry store to becoming an apprentice goldsmith at 17, and eventually buying out a partner and having his own shop.
He said a Maine bill passed last year that regulates second-hand precious metals dealing, had a negative impact on what had been a lucrative business for him — buying gold and silver — costing him as much as $30,000 in lost revenue.
The law requires a waiting period of 15 days before secondhand jewelry can be resold or melted down. It’s meant to prevent stolen jewelry from being sold or melted down before police or the victim has a chance to recover it, but Adams said market fluctuations affect his ability to deal with sellers while adhering to the holding period.
Adams said dishonest businesses get around the law by not documenting what jewelry they take in, and not being forthcoming to police when they come asking about potentially stolen jewelry.
“It wipes out your ability to do honest business, with honest people, I get it,” Cutler responded.
Cutler also visited Hair Gallery, Fussbudget’s Sports Cards and Stacy’s Hallmark.
Keith Edwards — 621-5647 firstname.lastname@example.org