On Tuesday, Maine voters will choose a governor to lead the state as it confronts significant economic and demographic challenges. Here’s a look at the candidates’ backgrounds and their views on some of the issues most important to them:
Republican Gov. Paul LePage:
— Background and personal life: The oldest of 18 children, LePage left his Lewiston home at the age of 11 because his father was abusive and lived for some time on the street. The Husson University graduate became the general manager of Marden’s Surplus and Salvage and mayor of Waterville. LePage, 65, and his wife, Ann, recently bought a $215,000 home in Boothbay, where they’ll live when they leave the Blaine House.
— Welfare: LePage’s push to overhaul the state’s welfare programs has included a six-month limit on certain benefits and requiring food stamp users to work in order to receive benefits for longer than three months.
— Domestic violence: Marked by his own experience as a child, LePage has worked to crack down on domestic violence by amending the bail code to better protect victims and requiring more abusers to pay into a victims’ compensation fund.
— Education: LePage signed the law legalizing charter schools in the state and has pushed to scrap the 10-school cap currently in place. He’s also a strong supporter of virtual charter schools.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud:
— Background and personal life: The second of six children, Michaud was raised in Medway. The 59-year-old went to work at Great Northern Paper mill in East Millinocket for nearly 30 years and never attended college. He served seven terms in the Maine House and four in the state Senate before being elected 2nd District congressman in 2003. Michaud is single and has a home in East Millinocket.
— Veterans: As the ranking Democrat on the Veterans Affairs Committee, Michaud has made veterans and military issues his focus. He advocated for requiring the U.S. military to buy athletic footwear made in the U.S. and helped create a pilot program in Maine designed to improve care for veterans in rural areas.
— The Affordable Care Act: If elected, Michaud pledges to introduce legislation to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act to roughly 70,000 people, which LePage opposes. Independent Eliot Cutler also supports the expansion.
— Women’s issues: Backed by Planned Parenthood, Michaud has put women’s health issues at the center of his campaign. He once supported measures backed by anti-abortion groups, but has evolved over the years to become a proponent of abortion rights.
Independent Eliot Cutler:
— Background and personal life: Cutler grew up in Bangor as the oldest of three boys. He graduated from Harvard University and received a law degree from Georgetown. Cutler was a legislative assistant to Sen. Edmund Muskie and later served under President Jimmy Carter as associate director of the Office of Management and Budget. The 68-year-old spent the bulk of his career as an environmental lawyer, but helped start Maine Seafood Ventures, which sells frozen lobster products. Cutler and his wife, Melanie, live in Cape Elizabeth.
— Taxes: Cutler wants to lower property taxes for most homeowners by 20 to 40 percent and push some of the tax burden onto those who visit Maine. He says the current property tax is too burdensome for vulnerable groups, such as seniors.
— Environment: Cutler, who touts his experience helping Muskie write the Clean Air and Clean Water acts, has pledged to support new incentives for the development of renewable energy sources and create a long-term plan for Maine to blunt the impacts of climate change, among other things.
— Politics: The independent has called for open primary elections, ranked-choice voting and getting rid of political action committees used by lawmakers vying for leadership positions in the Legislature.