SKOWHEGAN — Whoever would vote for independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler must ask themselves whether they want to cast a symbolic vote, or make a difference in the election to decide who will occupy the Blaine House for the next four years.

That was the message Monday from independent U.S. Sen. Angus King, who joined the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, for a tour of the New Balance shoe factory in Skowhegan. Last week, King threw his support behind Michaud, reversing the endorsement he gave of Cutler this summer.

“It became apparent last week that [Cutler] didn’t have the votes, and that he didn’t have the support,” King told reporters during a brief news conference before the tour began. “So the people who have supported him as I did really have a decision to make as to whether or not they want to cast what amounts to a protest vote, or whether they want to cast a vote that makes a difference in the outcome of this election. For myself, I decided for that later.”

King said he called Michaud last week to offer his endorsement. The congressman thanked him, he said, but immediately began seeking the senator’s support for a bill he was introducing in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“We did politics for about 30 seconds, and then we were doing policy,” King said. “That’s what Mike Michaud is all about. He is the most tenacious advocate for Maine that I’ve ever met.”

Michaud said he recalled fondly his time in the Maine Senate while King was governor in the early 1990s, and that he was grateful to have his support with less than 24 hours to go until polls open on Election Day.


“I think it’s going to put us over the edge, come 8 o’clock tomorrow night,” Michaud said, referring to when polls close in Maine.

The Democrat said his campaign for governor was picking up steam as he crisscrosses the state in a final push to get out the vote. Michaud is trying to unseat controversial incumbent Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

“The momentum is just amazing, no matter where I go,” he said. “As I’ve said right along, the people in the state of Maine are tired of the partisanship, the divisiveness and the failed policies of this administration.”

New Balance manufactures about one-quarter of its total global shoe production in the United States, much of that at three factories in Maine. Michaud regularly appears in New Balance sneakers in public and has been a vocal supporter of American manufacturing.

King touted the congressman’s push to make the U.S. military buy American-made sneakers in compliance with the so-called Berry Amendment, which requires the Department of Defense to buy American-made apparel whenever possible.

Michaud has promoted compliance with the Berry Amendment, and has touted New Balance for the government contract. In April, the Pentagon ruled that new recruits must spend their footwear allowance on American-made shoes. New Balance is one of few American shoe companies poised to benefit from the ruling, and Michaud said the deal could lead to New Balance creating 200 more jobs in Maine.


“It would be a big boost for us,” said Sheila Horton of Skowhegan, a stitcher at the New Balance factory who said she was supporting Michaud for governor. “I think he’ll help us keep some jobs here in Maine.”

Shawn Holmes, an assembly worker from Wilton, agreed.

“I hope he wins,” he said. Holmes said that as a self-identified lower-class worker, he felt Michaud and the Democrats represented his interests. “And we’ve just got to get rid of LePage,” he added.

Not every employee was sold on Michaud, though. Nearly every poll shows the race between LePage and Michaud in a dead heat. A recent BDN/Ipsos survey indicated both candidates tied with 42 percent of the vote.

That split was evident among the workers at New Balance, too.

“I’d like to see jobs stay here, and I know he’s done a lot of work on that,” said Val Brown of Athens, another stitcher. “But I don’t know yet who gets my vote.”

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