It’s a good bet that many who watched independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler’s press conference Wednesday will be perplexed by his remarks. The event was initially billed as something of a quasi-concession, although not a formal withdrawal. Both actions have real implications for Mainers who have already voted for Cutler.

Then Cutler began speaking. What unfolded were statements both defiant and, at times, seemingly contradictory.

Cutler said his supporters should vote their conscience and, if necessary, their “fears,” while also blasting a campaign “locked in the grip of fear.”

Asked about a group of former supporters who were holding a press conference to explain why they were switching their allegiance to Democrat Mike Michaud, Cutler accused one of them, prolific Democratic donor Bobby Monks, who served as Cutler’s campaign treasurer for part of the 2010 campaign, of “turning tail” and running four years ago.

Reached Wednesday, Monks denied Eliot’s version of events, and said he left the campaign because he was not permitted by the state Ethics Commission to run a Political Action Committee while he participated in Cutler’s campaign.
“I’m sorry that Eliot feels that way, its untrue,” Monks said. “I think people get very tired at the end of long campaigns, espescially when they don’t go like they hoped or expected.”

He said he was realistic about his chances for victory, which he described as a “long shot.” Yet he repeatedly maintained that he could still win and that he plans to campaign through Election Day. He also criticized the polls showing him running a distant third in the race, but presumably those polls, and his own internal tracking surveys, informed his decision to hold the press conference.

It was confusing, so confusing that Cutler’s campaign issued an FAQ later to clarify the whole thing.

At one point I asked him what this announcement meant for the people who have already voted for him by absentee ballot and to characterize his remarks. His response is captured in the video. When asked to clarify, he said:

“I don’t want voters to think that I have a hold on them. I don’t. I’ve never thought any candidate ever had a hold on any voter. I detest the notion of releasing your voters. I think that’s anti-democratic. I don’t release anybody. It’s oxymoronic, number one. I obviously feel that the choice I represent in this race is an important one.”

The full audio of his press conference and the followup question can be heard here (The exchange partially shown in the video begins at 15:24).

 

Cutler's FAQ