January 22, 2013

Cutler may take step toward governor run

The independent plans 'something' this week. Separately, a poll indicates he'd be a spoiler in a three-way race.

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
State House Bureau

AUGUSTA — Eliot Cutler, the independent who finished a close second in Maine's 2010 gubernatorial race, may take his first step this week toward a second run for governor.

click image to enlarge

In this July 2010 file photo, Eliot Cutler and Ina Garten, better known as the Barefoot Contessa from her Food Network television show, listen to a question from a member of the audience during a luncheon in Portland. Cutler, the independent who finished second in Maine's 2010 gubernatorial race, may take his first step this week toward a second run for governor.

Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer

Related Documents

PDF: Polling results on potential 2014 gubernatorial candidates

Cutler told the Portland Press Herald on Tuesday that there would be no announcement or news conference, but "I'm going to do something this week." He provided no additional details.

Cutler was responding to rumors that he planned to make an announcement about his candidacy. The Cape Elizabeth resident declined to comment further, but his remarks suggest he may start forming his campaign committee, a preliminary requirement for gubernatorial candidates.

A poll released Tuesday by Public Policy Polling, a national firm, indicates that Republican Gov. Paul LePage is among the least popular governors but would likely win a three-way race involving Cutler and any of several Democrats.

The poll's release and the rumblings about Cutler's announcement touched off early salvos from potential opponents.

Brent Littlefield, who is involved with LePage's re-election committee, said Cutler has been campaigning ever since he lost to LePage in 2010. Democrats, meanwhile, said the poll showed that Cutler would be a spoiler.

Cutler has long been regarded as a likely candidate in 2014. Even if he announces the formation of a campaign committee, it doesn't guarantee that he will run. However, it would enable Cutler to begin raising money.

Jim Melcher, a political science professor at the University of Maine-Farmington, said Tuesday that it may seem early for Cutler to initiate his campaign. He said Cutler may be trying to capitalize on a news cycle that has been dominated by state and national politics.

"I think everyone has assumed that Cutler was going to run again," Melcher said. "It makes sense that he would get in a little earlier than normal when the energy and interest in politics is high."

Melcher said that although forming a campaign committee wouldn't lock Cutler into running again, doing it early may have some strategic value.

LePage's re-election committee was formed in August 2011. It has held several fundraisers since then and has become more active over the past couple of months.

LePage, who won a five-way race in 2010, has not announced that he will run for a second term.

Cutler lost to LePage by 1.8 percentage points. He blamed early voting and other factors for the defeat.

Cutler, an attorney, was born and raised in Bangor. He has not held elective office, but was assistant director of national resources and energy for President Jimmy Carter.

Before that, he was a legislative assistant for Democratic U.S. Sen. Edmund Muskie and was involved with the drafting of the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act.

He later led a national environmental law firm that eventually merged with the international firm Akin Gump, one of the most prolific Washington lobbying organizations.

After his loss to LePage, Cutler vowed to remain politically active. He established OneMaine, an offshoot of his former campaign apparatus that is designed to support independent candidates and claims not to be a "stalking horse" for Cutler himself.

Cutler has remained in the public spotlight, making weekly appearances on radio shows.

He was also a board member for Americans Elect, a national nonprofit group formed to gain ballot access in every state for the purpose of introducing a bipartisan presidential ticket. The presidential push fizzled, but Americans Elect resurfaced during last year's U.S. Senate race when it spent more than $1.3 million to help elect independent Angus King.

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