PORTLAND, Maine — Independent Maine gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler on Thursday reiterated calls for new voting systems in the state which he said would help place all candidates — regardless of political parties — on equal footing.

In a news conference at his Portland campaign office, Cutler called for Maine to begin using an open primary or ranked-choice voting, the latter of which was used for the first time in the state during Portland’s 2011 mayoral race.

Cutler is competing in a tough three-way race with incumbent Republican Gov. Paul LePage and the Democratic candidate, six-term U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud. Polls have shown the major-party candidates in a virtual dead heat, with Cutler lagging in third.

In addition to the voting reforms, Cutler said that he “will seek every avenue that can pass constitutional muster to dramatically reduce the influence of money in Maine politics through reasonable and fair contribution limits and total transparency in reporting the sources of funds.”

Cutler did not specify what he felt ideal contribution limits would be, but added he will pursue changes that will allow independents to get on the ballot by collecting the same number of signatures as party candidates.

The news conference came on the heels of Wednesday’s decision by the Maine Ethics Commission to allow individual donors to contribute a maximum of $3,000 each to any candidate in this year’s governor’s race, a ruling forced in part by Cutler supporters who filed a lawsuit challenging the commission’s prior practice of allowing major-party candidates to accept $1,500 each for primary and general election campaigns while limiting independents to just $1,500 for the general election. The change effectively doubled the amount of money that individual donors can give to Cutler’s campaign this year.

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