Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King on Wednesday announced his support for U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud in the Maine governor’s race.

King previously endorsed independent Eliot Cutler, who in turn used the endorsement in television ads. However, Cutler said at a news conference Wednesday that he is a long shot to win on Nov. 4 and urged his supporters to “vote their conscience.”

“But, like Eliot, I too am a realist. After many months considering the issues and getting to know the candidates, it is clear that the voters of Maine are not prepared to elect Eliot in 2014,” King said in a written statement. “The good news is that we still have a chance to elect a governor who will represent the majority of Maine people: my friend and colleague, Mike Michaud. And today, I’d like to offer him my support.”

He added, “This was not an easy decision, but I think the circumstances require that those of us who have supported Eliot look realistically at the options before us at this critical moment in Maine history,” King said.

Michaud said in a written statement that King’s endorsement would help generate momentum in the final days of the campaign.

“I’m grateful and humbled by Sen. King’s endorsement and his support,” Michaud said. “Sen. King and I have worked together for many years, and we’ve always tried to put the best interests of our state first. With only six days left before Election Day, momentum is building and if we all stand together I believe that we can bring the change we need to Augusta. This is a close race, and we need every voter to show up on Tuesday.”

King’s announcement comes as Republicans have begun running ads attacking Michaud and touting King’s support for Cutler.

In an interview with the Press Herald on Tuesday, King said the Republican ad was trying to trick people, since the goal is to boost Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s chances at re-election. “Needless to say, I don’t like being used in it, but it’s a free country and my words were made publicly so I suppose they can use them,” he said.

Cutler had hoped King’s endorsement and a strong showing at debates would create a surge similar to 2010, when he lost to LePage by less than 2 percentage points and Democrat Libby Mitchell finished a distant third. However, polling has consistently shown Michaud and LePage in a dead heat, with Cutler trailing as a distant third.

Alex Willette, spokesman for the LePage campaign, issued a written statement saying King’s move was not a surprise because the independent U.S. senator caucuses with Democrats in Washington, D.C., and has what Willette described as a highly partisan voting record.

“Our campaign is going to continue doing what we have done for months, reaching out to all Maine voters, asking them for their vote to continue the economic recovery that has occurred under the leadership of Governor Paul LePage,” Willette said.

In his written statement, King described Cutler as a “fine man” who is prepared to “put solutions ahead of politics.”

King said Michaud has “lived the American Dream” by going from the mill floor in East Millinocket to Congress and that “he has what it takes to be Maine’s next governor.”

“Mike believes in protecting our environment and finding new ways to grow Maine’s economy and, as I have seen first-hand, is absolutely tenacious in defending Maine’s interests,” King said. “He knows in his heart that everyone, willing to work for it, deserves a chance to get ahead.”

Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

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