As a longtime advocate for equality and a woman’s right to choose, I strongly support U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud for governor.

Despite recent attempts to distort Michaud’s record on issues like reproductive freedom, equal rights and background checks, I know that Michaud, like so many Mainers, has become a fierce advocate for core progressive values I believe in.

That change is predicated on a willingness to listen that’s missing in both of Michaud’s opponents.

If we can’t acknowledge and celebrate the willingness of leaders like Mike, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and countless others to change their minds on issues such as marriage equality and reproductive privacy, we would never make any progress as a state or as a nation.

Michaud has publicly acknowledged that he took votes decades ago in the Legislature that he would not take today, and I have no doubt where he’ll stand if elected governor.

I support Michaud because I know – based on his record and his actions – that he will do the right thing for Maine, not just on issues like equality and women’s rights, but also by increasing access to health care, improving the quality of education and building an economy that works for everyone.

Moreover, he is the only candidate in the race who has a proven record of bringing people together. That’s something Maine needs more than ever if we’re going to undo the damage caused by Gov. Paul LePage.

Now that Michaud has earned the endorsement of EqualityMaine and other leading progressive groups in Maine, it’s unfortunate to see Edgar Allen Beem’s recent column distorting his record.

Beem ignores Michaud’s 15 years of pro-equality votes and 95 percent lifetime rating from the Human Rights Campaign, glosses over his 100 percent voting record with the nation’s leading pro-choice advocacy group, and insinuates Michaud opposes background checks even though he has vocally supported such measures.

Michaud has been a strong supporter of equality and other progressive causes in Maine, even when it meant challenging conventional wisdom in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District.

With yet another three-way race for governor underway, now is not the time for the progressive community to be divided.

Michaud already has an extremely strong base of support. Poll after poll shows him with a narrow lead over LePage while Eliot Cutler’s numbers have dropped into the teens.

Add to that the long, growing list of endorsements Michaud has received and a recent record-breaking fundraising report, and one thing is certain: Michaud is the only candidate for governor who can beat LePage.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped the Cutler camp from making Michaud, not LePage, the focus of its attacks. That kind of negative campaigning only benefits one person: LePage.

Pat Peard is a resident of Falmouth and a Portland-based attorney at the law firm of Bernstein Shur. She served as co-chairwoman on the successful 2012 campaign for marriage equality in Maine.

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