PORTLAND — In a ringing endorsement, U.S. Sen. Angus King on Monday said he was supporting Eliot Cutler’s bid to become Maine’s next independent governor.

King, who served two terms as an independent governor, said he was supporting Cutler because he was the best man in the race. He also dismissed the notion that supporting Cutler would only help the campaign of incumbent Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

King said he wasn’t supporting Cutler because he disliked either LePage or the Democrat in the race, U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, but because he believes Cutler has the best skills to lead the state.

He also said as an independent he believes that the sharp partisanship in Augusta and Washington is what creates dysfunctional government.

“It’s the difference for the sake of difference — it’s killing us,” King said.

He said if voters took the time to really consider the candidates and evaluate them, he believed they would come to the same conclusion he has in supporting Cutler.


“If the people of Maine look at these candidates and say who will make the best governor, who has the ideas, who has the thinking, Eliot wins,” King said.

King said he knew from his own experience that an independent governor in Maine could govern successfully without a party.

“In an age of partisanship, an independent governor has to work with both sides,” King said.

Cutler said he intended to be a broker for all sides.

“Now more than ever we need Democrats, Republicans and independents to rally together to put aside narrow partisan agendas and roll up our sleeves and to work to move Maine forward,” Cutler said.

He said Maine would also be put on the map nationally by having both an independent U.S. senator and an independent governor.


“We will put the words ‘I lead’ back into our state motto, ‘Dirigo,’ and we will send a powerful and important message to the rest of America,” Cutler said.

King, who so far has caucused with Democrats in the U.S. Senate, also endorsed Cutler late in 2010, when Cutler first ran for governor against LePage and then-state Senate President Libby Mitchell, D-Vassalboro. Cutler came in second in that three-way contest. LePage only narrowly defeated Cutler winning 38 percent of the vote compared to Cutler’s 36 percent. Mitchell was a distant third with just 19 percent.

University of Maine at Farmington political science professor Jim Melcher said in an email that King’s endorsement could help Cutler, but he didn’t know how much.

“For a campaign that had been stagnant in the polls and facing questions about its viability given how unbudgeable LePage’s support seems to be, it had to be a big morale boost, and it might lead more money to come their way,” Melcher said.

“But it is not as though King can deliver votes like an old Tammany Hall politician. Angus has backed losing horses in the past, so you don’t necessarily want to bet along with him that Cutler is going to win,” Melcher said.

When King was first elected to the governor’s office in 1994, he won with just 35 percent of the vote. But he went on to win re-election in 1998 with 59 percent and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012 with 53 percent of the vote.


King endorsed Cutler in 2010, but just a week before the election, which some pundits have said prompted many Democrats to cast strategic votes for Cutler instead of Mitchell.

On Monday King was unequivocal about whether he was endorsing a “spoiler” who would put LePage in office for a second term. King said he didn’t see it that way. He also said that most voters were just starting to focus in on the fall elections and that when he recalled his first run for governor in 1994, he too was polling in the teens, not unlike Cutler.

“People used to ask me if I was a spoiler, and I would say, ‘I prefer the word winner,'” King said. “I’m here to help Eliot, not to help anybody else.”

King said he didn’t hold any “illusions that the people of Maine were sitting at home today saying, ‘Who is Angus going to tell us to vote for?'” He also said he didn’t believe an endorsement from any one single person was a game-changer for any politician.

“I don’t believe that. I don’t think endorsements have that kind of effect,” King said. “I hope I can help somewhat and provide some momentum, but this campaign is going to pick up its own momentum as we head into the fall.”

Cutler also rejected the idea that he was “splitting the vote.” 


“I’m tired, really tired of the phrase,” Cutler said. “I prefer the phrase combining the votes. Two-thirds of the voters in this state haven’t decided who they are going to vote for in November, and that is an opportunity that I embrace. We are going to win this campaign, with Angus’ help and with the help of thousands and thousands of Maine voters who have decided enough is enough.”

Michaud’s opponents seized on the endorsement to suggest King was speaking against Michaud, even though he said he was not.

King has caucused with Democrats in the U.S. Senate, and David Sorensen, the spokesman for the Maine Republican Party, said the endorsement was an indication that Michaud had a weak record in Congress.

“It is striking that a member of the Democratic caucus in the U.S. Senate is endorsing Eliot Cutler over Mike Michaud,” Sorensen said. “We will continue to watch Eliot Cutler’s campaign closely and are preparing for the likelihood of a 2010 repeat and Cutler surge.”

Sorensen said King was “politically astute enough to know that for the center-left vote, Congressman Michaud’s record is not strong enough to compete with that of Gov. LePage.”

Alex Willette, LePage’s campaign spokesman, said Democrats supporting Michaud need to acknowledge the race includes Cutler as well and is simply not a two-way race between Michaud and LePage.


Democrats and supporters of Michaud have argued Cutler’s low polling numbers so far in 2014 show he will have a hard time repeating his 2010 performance.

But Republicans said they don’t believe that to be the case.

“The LePage campaign has always viewed this as a three-way race, and today’s endorsement reflects the same position Cutler was in during the 2010 election,” Willette said in a prepared statement.

Michaud’s campaign spokeswoman Lizzy Reinholt said the announcement came as no surprise, and that King told Michaud he would make the endorsement this week, but did not provide any details of when and where.

Reinholt said Michaud respects King and has a good record of working with him in Congress.

She said Republicans were spinning the story in order to detract from LePage’s record as governor, one Democrats see as a failure.


“The GOP’s spin is a silly attempt to distract from Gov. LePage’s nearly four years of failed leadership,” Reinholt said. “It’s no surprise that Sen. King endorsed Eliot Cutler today and Congressman Michaud respects that decision. The GOP’s response demonstrates how desperate they are to elevate Cutler in this race because they know he’s LePage’s only pathway to victory.”

Reinholt also said that Cutler has been dismissive of endorsements that Michaud has received over the course of the year, including those from large environmental organizations and labor unions that represent as many as 30,000 Maine voters.

She said Michaud also had a track record of working across the aisle, including his time in Congress and his time as the state Senate president in Maine.

“It all comes down to leadership and the type of leader you are going to be regardless of whether you are a Democrat, a Republican or an independent,” Reinholt said. “Right now Mike’s the only candidate in the race who actually has a proven track record of working with Democrats, Republicans and independents.”


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