Amid last week’s flurry of activity in Augusta, we almost missed something: the first campaign issue of 2014.
It came from Eliot Cutler, a likely independent candidate for governor in an election where voters likely will have more than two choices. He challenged his probable opponents to endorse a law that would send the gubernatorial race back to the voters for a two-way runoff if no candidate gets 50 percent of the vote.
It was smart politics by Cutler, who knows that some of the people who voted for him in 2010 are wary of doing so again if it meant that Gov. LePage would be re-elected.
Floating this idea, which he knows probably won’t be accepted, introduces the concept that Cutler is not in the race to be a spoiler and that he is not afraid of a fair fight.
So, this is probably a political ploy to bait the media into talking about the runoff concept, keep Cutler’s name in the news and address a potential weakness in his candidacy.
OK, we’re taking the bait. This might be a political ploy, but it’s also a good idea and one that Gov. LePage and U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud should support.
Three-way races for Maine governor are the norm, not the exception, but our institutions have not kept pace with the changes in our politics.
The parties used to be moderating influences, selecting consensus candidates that appealed to a broad cross-section of the population. That changed with the election of Gov. LePage, and it’s not just that we often disagree with the governor that makes us think that this was a change for the worse.
Instead of being a moderating influence, parties, with their dwindling membership, are a place where fringe groups can dominate.
For the first time, Maine has elected a governor who appeals to a highly energized and cohesive minority. He came to office with no mandate for compromise, and he sees no political advantage in reaching out to the other side.
We have had a lot of minority governors before, but never one from the extreme of his party and loyal only to his base. We’ve also had tough leaders before, principled leaders, leaders who were hard bargainers, but we have never seen anything like this governor’s approach to governance.
A governor who looks out only for a small slice of the electorate cannot represent all of the people. Any candidate who thinks he can’t win a head-to-head, two-way race has no business in the job.
So, Cutler is right: We ought to have a runoff for governor just so we can have a government that works for everyone. And if LePage and Michaud want to do what’s best for Maine, they will endorse this idea.