PORTLAND – I’m a Republican and I’m endorsing Libby Mitchell, a Democrat, for governor.

This may sound strange, but what is even more bizarre is the extremism of the Republican candidate, Paul LePage.

For many years, I was actively involved in the GOP. I am a former vice-chair of the Maine Republican Party and I went to the 2008 Convention as a McCain delegate.

I respect the long history of the Republican Party. I admire Lincoln’s vision, Eisenhower’s leadership and Reagan’s common sense. However, the values of self-reliance and rugged individualism which guided these men would have no place in today’s Republican Party. I am one Republican who will still embrace individualism and will not blindly follow the new tea party GOP.

The Maine GOP would like me to support a candidate who has openly called global warming a “hoax” during an appearance on the ultraconservative radio show, “The Aroostook Watchmen.” Now I happen to believe that the truth lies somewhere in the middle, but LePage insists on going to the extreme.

It’s almost as if LePage wants to take his ball and go home if we don’t play by his rules. Environmental protection is absolutely vital for Maine. And yet the GOP asks for my unity behind a candidate who has called for the closing of the Department of Environmental Protection.

Despite the ongoing disaster in the Gulf Coast, LePage is still in support of drilling for oil off our coast. How can I support a candidate who is willing to put two of our largest industries, fishing and tourism, at risk? If we truly want to void ourselves of the dependence we have on foreign crude, then let’s tap into wind power and invest in that technology. We have an endless supply of wind in the Gulf of Maine, why not use it?

It’s not only conservation where LePage holds extreme positions. During a televised debate, LePage said that creationism should be taught in Maine public schools. He believes that Foxcroft Academy “brought the math scores way up because they bring kids from Asia.” He also called for the shuttering of two other federal agencies, the Department of Education and the Department of Energy. And yet still, the GOP asks for my support.

Paul LePage stands proudly with the tea party, not the Republican Party. He has been quoted as calling the tea party the “second revolution of this country.” One of his staffers, Cynthia Rosen, was behind the hijacking of the GOP Platform during the convention held in May. This platform was filled with fringe policies and conspiracy theories that made Maine the laughingstock of the country. A Paul LePage administration would again make Maine a mockery, only with much more serious consequences.

I will gladly support, work for and embrace any candidate who will stand up and say that all people are equal and deserve equality in every area of life. These are values which I feel were at the heart of the foundation of the Republican Party, but have been lost during the tea party takeover.

I will back a candidate who believes that what Maine needs is a strong economy and education system, not one who spews ultraconservative rhetoric. I refuse to stand idly by while what I considered to be my party is rendered unrecognizable by a radical fringe.

I have thought long and hard about what is best for this state and the type of leader that we need. And that leader is Libby Mitchell. Libby is a person of conviction and a true believer in service to your country and state. She embodies what is best about Maine, and has never forgotten that Maine is best served by those who know the state.

As Senate president, Libby Mitchell got things done. She worked with Democrats and Republicans to pass legislation that helped create jobs, improved our education system and moved the state towards energy sustainability.

She is not afraid to make the tough decisions that will be necessary to lead our state. Libby Mitchell stands solidly in the mainstream and is the type of leader Maine needs to move forward.

I am not leaving the Republican Party of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan, but the party of Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and Paul LePage is leaving me. I am proud to endorse Libby Mitchell and I would welcome anyone who feels the same way to make it known loud and clear.