PORTLAND — Eliot Cutler’s 16-month campaign culminated Monday with a loud election-eve rally that drew more than 300 supporters to Monument Square.

“I think we have the man we need right now in Maine,” former Gov. Angus King told the cheering crowd.

King, Maine’s last independent governor, endorsed Cutler on Saturday and joined the final leg of the independent candidate’s four-day cross-state bus tour Monday.

“How does it feel to be on the verge of an amazing victory?” Cutler said as the crowd cheered and waved “Eliot Cutler” signs.

Cutler said he is the only candidate who gave voters a turnaround plan for the state, and he called on supporters to help make sure the negative advertising backfires on his opponents.

“I’m asking you to reject the politics of anger and hate and division and deception,” he said. “Affirm one more time that Maine still is a state where ideas matter, where character counts and where truth will prevail.”

His short speech ended with blaring music, as his family and close supporters joined him on the stage. Then he worked his way through the remaining crowd, shaking hands and urging supporters to keep working.

“There’s more energy than I expected here. If that holds across the state, it’s going to be real close,” said Bruce Hancock, a Democrat who came to the rally after deciding last week to support Cutler. “It was the negative ads. We don’t need the noise. We need to talk.”

King said he is sensing the momentum, too.

“I haven’t been this excited in a long time and I’m looking forward to tomorrow night,” King said.

The rally in Portland ended Cutler’s “Jobs and Opportunity Bus Tour,” although the candidate and his customized campaign bus are scheduled to be back on the road today, greeting workers at Bath Iron Works and thanking voters.

Even as the tour wrapped up with stops across York County on Monday, Cutler found plenty of undecided voters to talk with.

“I’ve never voted for an independent before,” said Judy Araujo of Sanford after shaking Cutler’s hand in the Trafton Senior Citizen Center in Sanford.

Cutler answered her questions about his plans before his wife, Melanie Stewart Cutler, continued the conversation.

Afterward, Araujo said she might vote for someone other than a Democrat for the first time. “I vote for the party as a rule, but I don’t know this time,” she said.

On Main Street in South Berwick, Amy Aiguier told Cutler she had already voted for him, while her husband, Eric, said he isn’t planning to vote at all.

“Eric, Eric, Eric,” Cutler said, putting his hand on Aiguier’s shoulder. “Do you love the state of Maine?”

“Yes, I do,” Aiguier said.

“Please, you gotta vote,” Cutler said.

At the Golden Harvest in Kittery, Hope Murphy told Cutler that she likes what he says but is leaning toward Democrat Libby Mitchell because she heard Mitchell has a better chance of beating Republican Paul LePage.

“I’m the only one who can beat LePage,” Cutler said, quoting the numbers from recent polls showing his support rising. Murphy promised to look into the numbers.

Cutler’s momentum in the polls is clearly influencing some voters.

Mara Flynn was volunteering at the Democratic Party office in South Berwick when she saw Cutler walking down the street outside. She went out to meet him.

“I’m starting to really feel like it’s between you and LePage,” she told Cutler.

She had just decided Monday morning to vote for Cutler, she said.

“I still love Libby,” she said. But, “I’m really terrified at the idea” of LePage winning.

In York, Norma Clark welcomed Cutler to her restaurant, Norma’s.

She was wearing a Cutler pin by the time Cutler left, but said she’s worried about all the people who voted early, before Cutler’s rise in the polls gave him the best shot at defeating LePage.

“I think it’s going to be close,” she said.

 

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at: [email protected]