PORTLAND — Eliot Cutler really wanted Jacques de Villier’s vote.
The independent candidate for governor stood at the counter of Old Port Wine Merchants on Tuesday morning and told the skeptical shop owner about his plans for reducing energy costs and health care costs. And he repeated his pledge to launch a review of business regulation led by someone Cutler calls the “grim repealer.”
“Oh, I like that, if you’ll do it,” de Villiers said.
Exactly a week before the Nov. 2 election, Cutler was looking for votes at both ends of the state.
He began Tuesday going door-to-door through part of Portland’s Old Port, asking shopkeepers, customers and office workers for their votes.
A five-hour car ride later, Cutler faced his four rivals during a 60-minute televised debate at Presque Isle Middle School.
The debate was followed by a reception with Aroostook County business leaders and a two-hour drive to Millinocket, where he would spend the night.
At dawn today, Cutler planned to greet workers arriving at the paper mill in East Millinocket.
Long days like Tuesday have become the rule, Cutler said. The final week of the campaign promises to be grueling, with two more debates and events from one end of the state to the other. But the strategy is the same as always, he said.
“It’s the same conversation about Maine’s future,” Cutler said.
In Portland, Cutler walked the Old Port with Ed Suslovic, a former mayor who’s now running for the District 3 City Council seat. As it happens, Suslovic’s opponent is Will Mitchell, son of Cutler’s Democratic rival, Libby Mitchell.
“That has nothing to do with why I’m here,” Suslovic said. “We need to elect this guy.”
Cutler introduced himself to voters one by one, chatting, joking and talking about the state’s economic problems and his plans for fixing them.
“We can be the biggest comeback state in the country,” Cutler told de Villier, the wine shop owner.
De Villier told Cutler at first that he had not yet decided whether to vote for him or Republican Paul Le Page, and that he had lost confidence in politicians’ ability to provide a future for young people who want to live and work in Maine.
Eventually, Cutler made the sale.
“I tell you what, I’ll give you my vote. I really will,” de Villier said.
Cutler, a lawyer and a former Democrat who lives in nearby Cape Elizabeth, bumped into lots of friends and supporters in the Old Port.
Jeff Royster of Topsham was one of several people who waved to Cutler or shook his hand and said he had already voted for him. “We need you,” Royster said.
Cutler didn’t get every vote he sought.
Jess Cady, owner of Weiner’s hot dog stand on Commercial Street, would not commit. “I wait until the last minute,” she said.
Cutler also ran into some staunch Democrats who were supporting Libby Mitchell.
One was Arden Manning, the Maine Democratic Party’s Victory 2010 campaign manager. Cutler has repeatedly complained that the party’s attack ads are misrepresenting his experience as a lawyer.
Manning introduced himself as Cutler left Bard Coffee on Middle Street. Cutler stopped shaking hands and quickly walked away. Suslovic, who is a Democrat, stayed behind briefly to scold Manning for the anti-Cutler mailings.
Before leaving the coffee shop, Cutler appeared to win over a voter or two.
One coffee drinker told Cutler that he should go to the Old Port Wine Shop and make his case to the owner. If that guy supports you, he said, he’ll talk to a lot of people.
Already been there, Cutler said. “He’s on board.”
Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at: [email protected]