January 3

Leading Maine gay-rights group endorses Michaud in governor’s race

Independent Eliot Cutler objects as EqualityMaine’s political clout goes to his openly gay rival.

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Gubernatorial candidates U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, left, and Eliot Cutler

GAY RIGHTS AN EVOLVING ISSUE

Michaud’s campaign has said that the Democrat has an evolving record on gay-rights issues. He served 11 terms in the Maine Legislature and has served six in Congress. Over that period, he has become more closely aligned with the Democratic Party and its support for same-sex marriage, and in 2012 he supported the ballot initiative that allowed same-sex couples to marry in Maine.

The Cutler campaign focused on Michaud’s voting record in the Legislature. Over that period, bills were introduced to prohibit employers or landlords from discriminating against people based on their sexual orientation. Michaud voted against several of those measures, and an anti-discrimination law finally passed in 1997.

Lizzy Reinholt, a spokeswoman for Michaud’s campaign, said Thursday that it is important to recognize how far gay-rights issues have come. She noted that in 1996, Democratic President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act, which allowed states to not recognize same-sex marriage laws. The law was deemed unconstitutional last year by the U.S. Supreme Court, and Clinton supported the decision. President Obama did not publicly support same-sex marriage until 2012.

“We should be proud of how far this issue has come,” Reinholt said.

The EqualityMaine endorsement is another relatively early endorsement for Michaud, who is trying to consolidate support from progressive groups. Cutler has sought backing from some of the same left-leaning groups. In November, when the Sierra Club announced it was endorsing the Democrat, Cutler’s campaign manager, Ted O’Meara, acknowledged that Cutler had tried to win the same endorsement, then dismissed the group as part of the Democratic campaign apparatus.

CAMPAIGN TOUTS CUTLER GAY-RIGHTS RECORD

Michaud wasn’t able to attend Thursday’s news conference in Portland. In a prepared statement, he said EqualityMaine has “truly changed hearts and minds, and made our state a better place for all Mainers to live, work and raise a family.”

Cutler, in his statement criticizing the endorsement, said he and his family have long supported lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues and helped raise money for EqualityMaine.

The group originally endorsed Democrat Libby Mitchell in the 2010 gubernatorial race, but later advised supporters that the latest polls in the race showed Cutler with a narrow lead as Mitchell began to fade to her third-place finish in the five-way race. Both candidates supported same-sex marriage and anti-discrimination laws and the group told supporters to vote for the candidate who had the best chance of winning.

Smith was executive director of EqualityMaine at the time. She is now leading the Campaign for Maine political action committee, which spent more than $330,000 to help Cutler’s candidacy in 2010.

Michaud has attempted to downplay his sexuality since he announced in November that he is gay. But his run has already attracted support from prominent gay-rights donors connected to national groups.

In December, Robert Raben, a congressional lobbyist who was a staffer for U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., hosted a fundraiser for Michaud in Washington, D.C. Raben was dubbed President Obama’s “gay-rights adviser,” and his firm has represented the Human Rights Campaign, a national group that has helped advance and finance same-sex marriage ballot initiatives in states, including Maine.

Brent Littlefield, Gov. Paul LePage’s campaign spokesman, issued a short response to EqualityMaine’s endorsement.

“The governor’s focus is on creating jobs and increasing prosperity for all Maine people,” Littlefield said.

This story has been corrected to note that EqualityMaine did not endorse Cutler in 2010, but advised voters that he was leading in the polls.

Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at:

smistler@pressherald.com

Twitter: @stevemistler

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