WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, acknowledged Monday that he is considering running for governor in 2014.

Michaud said his primary focus right now is settling into his new position as the ranking Democrat on the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee. But the Democrat said a number of people have encouraged him to seek the Democratic nomination for governor in 2014, likely as a challenger to Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

“I definitely will be looking at it,” Michaud said in an interview late Monday afternoon. “But right now I am focused on doing the best I can for veterans and their families.”

Michaud’s acknowledgement will not come as a surprise to close political watchers in Maine. He is one of several names that regularly pops up as a potential Democratic contender alongside former Gov. John Baldacci and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-District 1. Michaud has represented Maine’s sprawling 2nd District since 2003 after Baldacci won his first term in the Blaine House.

Although the election is still 20 months away, some Democrats are growing increasingly antsy to line up a strong contender for the race in order to avoid a repeat of the 2010 elections. LePage, a conservative Republican, narrowly won the race with 39 percent of the vote after many left-leaning and middle-of-the-road Mainers split their votes between Democrat Libby Mitchell and independent Eliot Cutler.

Cutler, who finished 2 percentage points behind LePage in second place, has already formed a campaign committee for 2014 and filed the necessary paperwork with the Maine Ethics Commission. And a poll conducted by Public Policy Polling last month showed that, despite high disapproval ratings, LePage could once again capture the Blaine House in a three-way race.

Michaud said he hasn’t set a timeline for deciding on whether to run in 2014 but that he would “take everything into consideration.” One factor would likely be the prospects of Democrats re-capturing control of the House.

Although not a high-profile member of Congress, Michaud has cultivated a reputation as an influential voice on veterans’ issues in recent years. His selection late last year as ranking member – or the top Democrat – of the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee gives Michaud even more sway on issues important to Maine’s disproportionately large population of veterans. It also means that he would be in a good position to take over as chairman of the committee if Democrats win back the House.

“I do get a lot of inquiries about whether I am going to run for governor,” Michaud said. “However, I’ve been focusing on my congressional work. But I definitely will look at that.”

The Public Policy Polling survey released last month found that Michaud trailed both Baldacci and Pingree on Mainers’ list of preferred candidates. However, Michaud had a strong approval rating and performed the best against LePage in a one-on-one race, out-polling the Republican governor 57 percent to 36 percent.

Whether it’s next year or some other time, he’s a very prime candidate for statewide office,” the polling firm concluded.

In a three-way race with LePage and Cutler, however, PPP’s results suggested that Michaud would trail LePage 34 percent to 30 percent with Cutler in third place with 26 percent.