September 25, 2013

Eliot Cutler announces gubernatorial run

The independent who came within 2 percentage points of winning the Blaine House in 2010 says: 'This time we will.'

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
State House Bureau

Eliot Cutler made his independent candidacy for governor official Tuesday, but before telling supporters where he was going, he felt compelled to tell them where he’d been. 

click image to enlarge

With wife Melanie Cutler behind him, Eliot Cutler announces his independent candidacy for Maine governor at a press conference Tuesday, Sept. 24., 2013 at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

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Read Eliot Cutler's gubernatorial announcement speech

Three days before the 2010 election, Cutler gathered supporters in Monument Square in Portland alongside former independent Gov. Angus King. King was there to endorse Cutler, an unprecedented move for King. A game-changer in a white-knuckle race, some said.

Cutler lost the five-way race to Gov. Paul LePage by less than two percentage points. 

“We almost did it,” Cutler told a crowd of over 150 supporters at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute Tuesday. “This time we will.”

Time will tell if Cutler’s proclamation proves true. In speeches in Bangor and Portland Tuesday, he laid out his case. He wasn’t a spoiler, he said. His second quest for the Blaine House wasn’t quixotic or about ego. It was about a choice for Mainers, he said. 

“The best way forward isn’t left or right, it’s straight ahead,” said Cutler, again deviating from prepared remarks. 

A 67-year-old attorney from Cape Elizabeth, Cutler has never held elected office. He started his political career as a legislative assistant to Democratic U.S. Sen. Edmund Muskie and served as natural resources and energy policy adviser to President Jimmy Carter.

Cutler later founded Cutler & Stanfield, a national environmental law firm. Cutler & Stanfield merged with Akin Gump, an international lobbying firm that spends significant money lobbying Congress and is considered a "heavy hitter" according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Cutler's 25-minute speeches delivered Tuesday in Bangor and Portland were retrospective and solemn at times, aggressive and confident at others. The two-staged campaign launch was anticipated ever since Cutler finished second in the 2010 race. Cutler didn’t dwell on the 2010 election for long, but it’s clear that it follows him. 

After his speech reporters asked him to respond to calls to drop out, avoid the split-vote effect that allowed LePage to win with a plurality, not a majority. In others, to stand aside and allow Democratic candidate Mike Michaud to confront LePage one on one. 

Cutler waved off the suggestion. He’s heard it before. A lot. Aside from about “a dozen” Democratic party loyalists, he said, nobody wanted him to get out of the race. 

The suggestion, he said, “smacks of desperation sprinkled with entitlement.”

Cutler, 67, launched his campaign in Bangor, his hometown, before ending the launch in Portland, a short ride from his home in Cape Elizabeth. The day-long event culminated with a Twitter town hall and follows Cutler's unofficial announcement in the spring that he planned to make a second run at the Blaine House. 

Cutler has been ramping up the media-driven launch since last week when he released a 104-page book that revealed his policy initiatives should his second bid end in victory in 2014. The book also contained plenty of shots at the two major political parties, which Cutler described as obsessed with scoring political points against one another at the expense of the public interest. 

He said Mainers should free themselves from “the chokehold of partisanship that makes scoring points more important than solving problems.”

Over the past several months Cutler has taken sharp aim at LePage's behavior and policy agenda. On Tuesday, he said LePage had a compelling life story, rising from poverty to the state’s chief executive. However, Cutler said, LePage’s claims of success as a businessman were at odds with his tenure in the Blaine House. 

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