SOUTH PORTLAND — There are many bumper stickers in Maine that say “61%,” a reference to the 61 percent of voters who didn’t vote for Paul LePage for governor in 2010. But the important statistic from that election is 81 percent.

Eighty-one percent of Maine voters wanted a change from the Augusta politics that have made us one of the highest-taxed states in the nation, and one of the very worst in the nation in which to do business. Eighty-one percent knew we needed something different. Only 19 percent voted for Libby Mitchell and the same Augusta politics that got us into this mess.

Four years later, Gov. LePage has squandered any goodwill he might have enjoyed, and Maine’s economic activity continues to lag.

The Democrats are putting forward a nice man, but Mike Michaud is one more Augusta politician who represents the same Augusta politics that got us into the mess we’re in today.

There is another option: independent Eliot Cutler. But my friends on the left are scared to death of a split vote and another four years of Paul LePage, and my friends on the right think Eliot Cutler is a Democrat in sheep’s clothing.

To my friends on the left, who are people of great integrity, I offer this: When Gov. LePage offered a way to pay the overdue hospital bills, Democrats in the State House wanted to look for other ways to spend the money rather than pay the bills that were overdue.

This is just plain embarrassing for the Democratic Party. These are the same bills that Gov. Baldacci knew were due when he declared the budget balanced. The level of financial leadership coming from Augusta Democrats does not match what Democrats of integrity in this state deserve.

I like Mike Michaud, too – just not for governor. Mike has zero executive experience, and he can’t learn how to be a CEO and, at the same time, lead us out of the problems that he and the Augusta Democrats created.

To my friends on the right, who are also people of great integrity, I offer this: LePage has so poisoned the environment in Augusta that his chances of driving the kind of real compromises that are necessary to get Maine moving again are slim to none.

If Gov. LePage is re-elected, he would so damage the Republican brand that there might not be another Republican governor in Maine for a generation. He told his own attorney general to sue him to get a report. To say that Gov. LePage’s words and sometimes actions are an embarrassment is an understatement.

“Well, a Republican can’t vote for Cutler!” Sure, Cutler is the most socially liberal candidate in the race, but that shouldn’t decide how folks on the right vote; after all, marriage equality or gay marriage came to Maine during the LePage administration.

More importantly, Cutler is the most experienced fiscal manager in the race. This election is all about the economy, and a governor has real power to influence the effectiveness of state government, lead meaningful tax policy reform and improve the economy of our state. This stuff is right in Cutler’s wheelhouse.

Even if folks on the right agree that Cutler is fiscally moderate or even fiscally conservative enough, and folks on the left agree that Cutler truly cares about what’s important to progressives, the question is: “Can Eliot Cutler be trusted to craft the kind of compromises that we need?”

To the folks on the right, I will answer that Cutler understands we can’t add any more to our overall tax burden. He told me so, and I believe him.

To the folks on the left, Cutler will protect the social safety net by balancing budgets in an equitable way.

To both left and right, I say that Cutler understands that we can’t support business at the expense of labor or labor at the expense of business. It needs to be a partnership.

Finally, while Cutler values growing businesses and the jobs that come with them, he will protect the environment, too. He’s also the only candidate who has laid out in a book a plan for growing our economy.

During the last campaign for governor, I didn’t take the time to find out if Cutler was as independent as his ads indicated. I should have.

Let’s set aside our fears, leave party politics behind and vote for who will be the best governor. So many times, we ask why there isn’t another option. This time, there is a real option, and his name is Eliot Cutler.

– Special to the Press Herald