AUGUSTA – A well-respected Republican state lawmaker said Wednesday he is supporting Eliot Cutler, an independent candidate, in Maine’s 2014 governor’s race.

State Sen. Patrick Flood, R-Winthrop, the lead Senate Republican on the Legislature’s powerful budget-writing Appropriations Committee, said Cutler has the “experience, vision, judgment and character” needed to be governor.

Cutler is challenging incumbent Republican Gov. Paul LePage. Also running is Maine 2nd District U.S. Congressman Mike Michaud, a Democrat from East Millinocket.

Flood, who has served 10 years in the Legislature, including eight on the Appropriations Committee, is not seeking re-election in 2014.

“I admire Eliot’s passion for bringing people together to set direction, solve problems, and achieve our state’s potential,” Flood said in a prepared statement. “It is clear to me that he has the management skills, the experience, the vision, the judgment, and the character to lead our state as governor.”

Flood also said Cutler’s career as a businessman and manager is a reason for his endorsement.

Flood’s reputation in the Maine Legislature has been one of a deal broker and was frequently praised by Democrats and Republicans for his willingness to stick through difficult negotiations on the state budget.  

In 2014, he even took the blame for a breakdown in budget negotiations when majority Democrats on the committee took a vote without the Republicans at the table. Republican leaders first cried foul but Flood later said it was a matter of miscommunication on his part that led to the Republicans’ absence the night of the vote.

During the closing hours of the 2014 state Senate session, Flood’s colleagues, both Democrats and Republicans, showered him with praise for his ability to get a deal that both parties could support and one that would withstand a LePage veto.

Flood was also largely credited with being key to averting a state government shutdown by helping to broker a bipartisan agreement in 2013 when Republicans and Democrats came to loggerheads over the state budget.

“I’m honored to have Pat’s support,” Cutler said in a prepared statement. “It is going to take all of us – Republicans, Democrats and Independents – to turn this state around. Pat Flood is a highly respected legislator who puts Maine people first. He works hard to find common ground and get things done, and that is how I intend to govern.”

The endorsement is one of the first signs that support for LePage among more moderate Maine Republicans may be slipping.

But David Sorensen, spokesman for the Maine GOP, said Flood’s support for Cutler was based on “personal” matters and wasn’t a reflection of any “substantive disagreement” between Flood and LePage.

Sorensen said the endorsement did not come as a surprise.

He also noted that state Rep. Terry Hayes, D-Buckfield, a former House majority whip, endorsed Cutler earlier this year. She is working on Cutler’s campaign. Hayes, like Flood, is not seeking re-election in 2014.

Brent Littlefield, a campaign spokesman for LePage and who has served as a policy adviser to the governor, said he believed Flood and LePage parted ways because the pace at which LePage hoped to implement financial reform around the state’s welfare programs was too fast for Flood.

“Paul LePage is not a typical politician and he doesn’t go for all the pomp and circumstance of government. When he sees a problem he wants to fix it,” Littlefield said.

Lizzy Reinholt, a spokeswoman for Michaud’s campaign, did not directly address the Flood endorsement but said Michaud enjoyed the endorsements of more than 30 different Maine groups.

“Congressman Michaud is proud to have the support of more than 30 organizations representing more than 100,000 Mainers, including Maine Association of Police, Maine State Troopers Association and numerous other groups representing Democrats, Republicans and independents throughout Maine,” Reinholt said in an email message to the Sun Journal.

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