Wednesday March 20, 2013 | 07:20 PM

Guest posted by Micheal Shepherd

The media spotlight shone on Maine’s 2014 gubernatorial race Wednesday, with two big-name potential candidates teasing assumed runs in strong terms.

Democrat John Baldacci, Maine’s governor from 2003 to early 2011, told Politico on Wednesday that he’ll run if U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud don’t, echoing what he and those close to him have been telling Maine media since January.

But he also said he considers April to be when Democrats should start assembling “the apparatus for a campaign.”

Privately, many Democrats hope they can woo one of the sitting congresspeople to put forward the strongest-possible challenge to Gov. Paul LePage — seen as difficult to beat in a three-way race because of a united base. Both Michaud and Pingree have said they’re considering runs.

Baldacci’s interview, especially given the effective April deadline he lays out, could serve to motivate them to make up their minds.

“If they don’t (run), then I want to be ready to make sure that we put up a good fight, because I think that it’s worth fighting for,” he told Politico.

Steve Woods, a Yarmouth town councilor and businessman, and David Slagger, a former Maliseet tribal representative to the Maine Legislature, have already filed to raise money as Democratic gubernatorial candidates. Independents Eliot Cutler and Alex Hammer have also filed.

Speaking of Cutler, who was narrowly beaten by Republican Gov. Paul LePage in 2010, he told WCSH and WLBZ that he “assumes” he will be a candidate in 2014.

“This is going to be an open race in my view,” Cutler told the stations. “I've seen the polls, and I'm pretty certain we can win.”

In an interesting side note, the stations said according to Cutler, “several Democrats” have asked him to rejoin their party and run for governor as a Democrat, but he’s committed to remaining an independent.

However, many prominent Democrats are bitter toward Cutler after their 2010 loss to LePage, and they don’t like him running in 2014, largely because a January poll by Public Policy Polling, a North Carolina firm, suggested LePage would be beaten handily by any prominent Democrat in a one-on-one race.

In a January radio appearance, Baldacci played up that angle.

“Why should somebody who's going to come in as an independent, or somebody who claims to be an independent, get into the race and then end up being a loser anyways?” he asked. 

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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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