In an election year when voters in Maine and around the country are feeling fed up with partisan bickering, angry that their elected representatives would rather argue about problems than solve them, and disillusioned by the paucity of qualified candidates offering serious ideas, Maine has a candidate who offers hope.

Among the field of five vying for governor of Maine, one has the potential to bridge philosophical divides, heal political wounds and conquer daunting problems that are confronting state government and Maine’s overburdened taxpayers.

That candidate is independent Eliot Cutler, and he is our choice for governor.

Cutler receives our endorsement because we believe he has leadership qualities that will enable him to transcend the self-focused concerns of any single political party and guide Maine and its people toward a brighter future.

This independent has been a Democrat in the past – some believe he still is, at least at heart – but he has pursued the Blaine House with ideas and proposals that cut across partisan ideology. His vision for Maine is not just words wrapped around high-minded purpose. His vision is a plan, a detailed blueprint to progress and jobs and fiscal responsibility.

His plans for Maine are thoughtful, logical and, most important, doable. And doable plans are what we need.

The most recent reminder of Maine’s economic woes came in a doom-saying report from Forbes magazine, which declared this state worst in the nation for business and careers. There’s been dispute over how that ranking was calculated, but its conclusion is not debatable: Maine’s economy, once merely stagnant, is now in freefall.

Cutler is quick to say that government does not create jobs. But government does create the conditions under which business can thrive. He is the only candidate with the requisite experience in the public and private sectors to bring sense to Maine’s fragmented and ineffective efforts at economic development, which are expensive and unaccountable.

Cutler’s detractors say his recent experience as a lawyer in Beijing, China, should disqualify him to serve as governor; we consider this experience an asset. We believe that of all the candidates, Cutler understands best what drives businesses away from places like Maine, and will therefore know how to keep them here.

Note we say “keep,” not lure. While we have high hopes for increased economic activity, much of that will depend on the national economic recovery. In the meantime, Maine must do more to preserve and grow the businesses that now call our state home.

There are two ways to do so: cut taxes and reduce energy costs. We believe Cutler has sound proposals for both, through reforming government operations toward maximum efficiency and instituting a public power authority to assist business with energy needs.

Such things are easier said than done, of course. But the need is dire. Maine’s energy costs put our industries at a disadvantage against the states where their competition is greatest, and our spending on government is greater than other rural states in too many categories.

Outgoing Gov. John Baldacci did admirable work in keeping Maine stable amid the most turbulent weather for state government since the 1930s; now, the person who succeeds him must be poised to restore the workings of the state, almost from the ground up.

In our opinion, neither of the partied candidates possesses the plans to do what Maine requires. Paul LePage, the Republican, has an admirable life story and a sterling fiscal record as mayor of Waterville.

But LePage’s proposals for Maine rely too much on doing less, instead of doing more. This state needs a smaller but also responsive government.

LePage’s temperament, as well, gives us pause about his decision-making. A governor can’t make snap decisions, or play loose with facts or rhetoric. LePage has done too much of both during this campaign, and it’s damaged his credibility.

Sen. Elizabeth Mitchell of Vassalboro is a candidate of distinction. Her experience in the Legislature has given her invaluable insight into how Maine works.

Unfortunately, we believe this tenure also precludes the creative thinking now needed in a chief executive.

Mitchell’s proposals for the state too closely echo the policies of the past, at a time when we believe a divergent course is needed. Maine must change to thrive, and Mitchell – although a dedicated public servant – is not the agent of change Maine requires.

(One other in this race deserves mention: Shawn Moody. He’s a breath of fresh air, and there’s a place for him in public office somewhere.)

We believe Maine needs an independent in the Blaine House, not just because he’s got the sharpest proposals, but also because the parties currently in power talk glowingly about bipartisanship, while failing miserably at it.

Last year, the Legislature enacted an eminently sensible reform package that lowered the income tax rate and expanded the sales tax. The Democrats got it passed; the Republicans got it repealed at the polls. It was a good idea, stillborn because of pure partisanship.

There are allusions to working together, such as passing five budgets, but in reality, the strong Democratic majorities in the House and Senate made bipartisanship a luxury instead of necessity. On important items like taxes, the parties gave Maine a stalemate.

Why should Maine voters reward them by electing one of their candidates to the state’s highest office, and continue this posturing going forward? The challenges are far too great, the costs much too high and opportunities too scarce to allow that to happen.

There is one candidate in this race with the plans to move Maine forward that we most agree with, and who we believe is most suited to serve as our next governor.

The fact that he’s also an independent only solidifies our thinking that he’s the right choice.

On Nov. 2, we urge a vote for Eliot Cutler for governor.