Thursday March 07, 2013 | 10:20 AM

Early start: Here's another sign that the Democratic Party has a lot at stake in the 2014 gubernatorial race. 

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, took an early swipe at presumed independent candidate Eliot Cutler. Shumlin recycled the Democratic clarion call that "a vote for Eliot Cutler is a vote for Gov. Paul LePage."

The message isn't new, but it's noteworthy that the DGA is jumping into the fray 20 months before Election Day. The DGA, like its counterpart the Republican Governors Association, plays a prominent role in governors' races, both in terms of spending and allocating staff resources to competitive states.

Prognosticators are already eyeing Maine as a battleground, so it makes some sense that the DGA would fire a shot across Cutler's bow even before the independent announces his candidacy (Cutler has started a campaign committee, but hasn't officially declared).

Shumlin's message arrived days after U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, repeated that he's considering getting into the race. Michaud, according to recent polling, is considered one of Democrats' best hopes for winning the Blaine House

Taken together, the two events could also be designed to plant the seed of doubt in Cutler's mind.

Death of me: It's widely assumed that Gov. Paul LePage will seek re-election in 2014. However, the governor on Wednesday wouldn't commit to his candidacy when asked by reporters. 

LePage was also asked about running for Congress. It's probably a safe bet that he isn't interested. 

He joked Wednesday that everything comes at a cost and that Congress could be the death of him. 

Real deal: Those who spend any amount of time on the Legislature and website can attest to its clunky functionality. In fact, clunky is about the kindest word used to describe it.

RSS feeds either don't work or are non-existent. Schedules of committee hearings, bill status and legislative schedules are all over the place.

Well, The Sunlight Foundation has somehow figured out a way to put all this important information into a cohesive, cogent format. It's called Open States

Rebuttal required: It's pretty much a certainty that Jonathan McKane won't be appointed to the board of Dirigo Health following Tuesday's 8-5 committee vote this week to oppose his nomination

Republicans in the Senate don't have the votes to overturn that decision, which requires a two-thirds vote. 

McKane's nomination was supposed to be taken up by the Senate Thursday morning. However, his nomination is being kicked back to the Insurance Committee so that McKane can respond to some of the scathing testimony delivered by his opponents. He didn't get that chance on Tuesday, which is a violation of the Legislature's joint rules. 

Senate Democrats are expected to approve the nominations of Republican appointees Gary Reed and Wesley Richardson. Both were unanimously recommended by the Insurance Committee earlier this week.

Non-political item

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Steve Mistler covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.

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