Friday, March 7, 2014
WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud moved closer Thursday to running for governor of Maine, launching an exploratory committee and a campaign-style website to test voter support before committing to run on the Democratic ticket in 2014.
In this October 2012 file photo, U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, poses for a photo before a "Get Out the Vote" rally for Democratic candidates at the Lewiston Armory. Michaud moved closer Thursday to running for governor of Maine, launching an exploratory committee and a campaign-style website.
John Ewing / Staff Photographer
Michaud's announcement was another sign that Maine will have a contentious three-way race – and possibly larger – as Republican Gov. Paul LePage seeks re-election.
But the six-term congressman said he needs a few more months to gauge his support among voters and all-important campaign donors.
"Right now it's just an exploratory committee," Michaud said Thursday afternoon. "I will make the final determination later this fall."
Michaud said he plans to register as a candidate with Maine's ethics commission within 10 days. In the meantime, he launched www.michaud2014.com, featuring a video and a prominent "Donate" button.
Michaud acknowledged that his ability to raise money is a key factor in his decision because he plans to run a privately financed campaign rather than participate in Maine's Clean Election program.
"Money is definitely going to be important because it is expensive to run a campaign," he said.
Democrats are anxiously awaiting Michaud's decision as they seek a nominee who's capable of unseating LePage, whose conservatism and politically incorrect style have made him deeply unpopular among liberals and many moderates.
Any candidate will also have to contend with independent Eliot Cutler, who narrowly lost to LePage in 2010 and plans to run again.
Three other people -- Democrat Steve Woods, Green Independent David Slagger and independent Lee Schultheis -- have registered as candidates for 2014.
In the eyes of several key figures, Michaud's announcement appeared to solidify his intentions.
Former Democratic Gov. John Baldacci, for example, has said he will run again if Michaud does not. But on Thursday, Baldacci suggested that scenario is unlikely.
"From talking with the congressman, he is definitely very concerned about the direction of the state of Maine and about the partisanship," Baldacci said. "I just feel very strongly that Mike is going to make a strong candidate and a strong governor."
Cutler issued a statement welcoming Michaud into the race.
"He has served Maine well in Congress and I am sorry that he has decided to leave," Cutler said. "His departure will leave Maine weaker in Washington."
However, Cutler said, only his candidacy will offer a "clear alternative to the failed administration of Gov. LePage and the failed policies of the past."
"Maine needs a governor who will put the people of Maine first, not the political parties and the special interests on the left and the right that finance and control them," Cutler said.
Michaud, a former paper mill worker from the Millinocket area, served for more than 20 years in the Maine Legislature and held leadership positions such as Senate president before running for the U.S. House in 2002. He succeeded Baldacci as Maine's 2nd District congressman.
Without a high profile in Washington, Michaud has emerged as an influential voice on veterans' issues. As the top-ranking Democrat on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, he has considerable input as the committee tackles issues such as a lengthy backlog of disability claims.
Michaud would be in line to become the committee's chairman if Democrats were to win control of the House.
With his blue-collar background and popularity in Maine's more conservative northern congressional district, Michaud is viewed by many as the Democrats' best hope of defeating LePage and Cutler.
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