PORTLAND – A flier distributed by the Maine Democratic Party stole the show Thursday at a gubernatorial forum sponsored by environmental groups that wanted to learn more about the candidates’ positions on sprawl, climate change and business regulations.

In his opening and closing statements, independent Eliot Cutler called on Democrat Libby Mitchell to repudiate a mailer that called into question his environmental record. Cutler held up the flier, saying, “There’s not a shred of truth in this document.”

“People ask me why I left the Democratic Party and why I’m running as an independent,” he said. “This is why.”

The mailer says Cutler “has been working as a lobbyist for big oil companies most of his career” and he helped to “loosen off shore oil and gas drilling restrictions.”

The Cutler campaign was quick to respond, saying the information in the flier is false.

Cutler, an attorney who worked for Sen. Edmund Muskie and in the Carter administration, registered as a lobbyist four times in his career, with Cutler & Stanfield, an environmental lobbying firm, according to the campaign.

He “never once has been a lobbyist for an oil company,” the campaign said.

During Thursday’s forum, Cutler called on Mitchell to urge the head of the Democratic Party to ask him to withdraw it. When she didn’t respond to the first request, Cutler repeated it in his closing statement.

“Libby, I’m going to ask you one more time to repudiate this,” he said.

During her closing, Mitchell responded.

“I cannot call the party to tell them to do anything, because I am a clean-election candidate,” she said, referring to the fact that she is barred by law from coordinating election activity with the party.

Mitchell said she understands what it’s like to be falsely depicted, saying that while Cutler has tried to paint her as a member of the status quo, she has spent her political career fighting for change.

The tense exchange came at the end of a 90-minute forum in which four of the five candidates on the ballot shared their views on environmental issues. Mitchell and Cutler were joined by independents Shawn Moody and Kevin Scott. Republican Paul LePage did not attend.

LePage leads the pack in recent polls, followed by Mitchell and Cutler.

Groups representing conservation, environmental and energy interests sponsored the event at the University of Southern Maine’s Hannaford Hall. Moderated by Susan Sharon of the Maine Public Broadcasting Network, the forum was sponsored by the Conservation Law Foundation, Environment Northeast, Maine Audubon, the Maine Center for Economic Policy and the Natural Resources Council of Maine.All four candidates in attendance agreed that climate change is real, and offered different solutions that can be implemented at the state level.

 

MaineToday Media State House Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at: scover@mainetoday.com