Democrat Mike Michaud leads his opponents in the governor’s race in the all-important cash-on-hand category, according to the latest campaign reports filed Tuesday.
Michaud has a little more than $1 million on hand, followed closely by incumbent Republican Gov. Paul LePage at $917,000 and independent candidate Eliot Cutler at $527,000.
Meanwhile, Cutler has eclipsed the $2 million mark in campaign contributions – nearly $1 million from the candidate himself – the campaign reports state.
Michaud has raised just shy of $2 million and LePage has raised about $1.3 million to date.
A University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll commissioned last month by the Portland Press Herald showed Michaud with 40 percent support of likely voters. LePage was at 36 percent and Cutler was a distant third, at 15 percent. Another 7 percent said they were undecided.
Michaud’s lead is within the 4.3 percentage point margin of error.
The latest reports, which were due at midnight Tuesday and cover the period from May 28 through July 15, showed strengths for all candidates
The Michaud campaign gathered $355,808 in contributions from May 28 through July 15 and has now received donations from 14,500 individuals.
“We are in a strong position to get our positive message of change out to voters,” Michaud’s campaign manager, Matt McTighe, said in a statement.
LePage raised $234,128 during the most recent period but spent just $65,382 compared to $164,319 for Michaud, a disparity highlighted by the Republican’s campaign.
“Michaud Campaign Burns Cash at Rate Nearly Three Times LePage Campaign,” read Tuesday’s press release from the LePage camp.
Cutler’s campaign made several fundraising pitches in the weeks leading up to the latest filing deadline. The candidate, who is privately wealthy, pledged to match every donation dollar for dollar.
Cutler raised $191,790 from individuals – including roughly $10,000 in in-kind donations – during the most recent period but contributed a whopping $580,000 himself.
“Our campaign is growing stronger every day,” Cutler said. “Hundreds of Independent, Republican and Democrat voters contributed for the first time during the latest reporting period because they want a governor who has a real plan to create jobs and opportunity.”
To date, Cutler has committed $980,000 of his own money.
The Cutler campaign has said that it fully expects he will self-finance much of his race because he can’t collect the same maximum contribution of $3,000 from individual donors as his party-affiliated rivals.
Maine election law allows party candidates to draw $1,500 contributions for the June primary and the general election even if the candidates don’t face a primary challenger. Neither LePage nor Michaud had a primary challenger, which allows them to draw $3,000 for two elections, while Cutler’s campaign maxes out at $1,500 per donor.
This month, four Cutler supporters filed a federal lawsuit challenging the law and seeking an injunction that would raise the cap for non-party candidates. A decision on that request is pending.
A lesser-known independent, Lee Schultheis of Freeport, did not report any campaign contributions for the latest period. He did spend about $200.
Schultheis, whose campaign slogan is “I’m running for governor … but not really,” has raised $20,000 since launching his campaign – all of it his own money – and spent nearly $6,000 during the last cycle, most of it paying signature gatherers to get him on the ballot for the general election.
Prior to the latest filing Tuesday, the LePage campaign was fined $5,000 by the Maine Ethics Commission for failing to file what is known as a 24-hour report on time for a pair of $1,500 donations. Any contribution exceeding $1,000 in a certain period must be disclosed within 24 hours.
“This was an error that our finance team picked up on prior to filing the (previous) report,” said campaign spokesman Alex Willette. “We contacted the ethics commission immediately upon discovering the error, and will be seeking a waiver for the fine with the ethics commission.”
The LePage campaign also was fined last month by the ethics commission for missing two deadlines to file 24-hour reports. The violations were for contributions totaling $5,850 from five donors.