Eliot Cutler announced on Monday that he will run as an independent candidate in Maine’s 2014 gubernatorial election.
“I am running because we need to move Maine forward, and the best way forward is neither left nor right, but straight ahead,” Cutler said during a speech in his hometown of Bangor. “I ask you to join me on an independent path, one that starts with a clear vision of Maine’s future and a real plan—a real plan—for growth and opportunity.”
This will be Cutler’s second consecutive gubernatorial campaign; he narrowly lost to Governor Paul LePage (R) in 2010, receiving 36 percent of the vote to LePage’s 38 percent.
Governor LePage has been a contentious leader during his tenure. After hiring his 22-year old daughter to his staff, refusing to attend any Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations, and removing a pro-labor mural from the Maine Department of Labor — among other controversies — LePage’s approval rating sank to 39 percent as of January.
But with Cutler’s announcement on Monday, even with dismal job approval the governor may now be able to sneak through to win a second term.
According to an August PPP poll, in a general election matchup between U.S. Representative Mike Michaud (D-ME) and LePage, Michaud would win 54 to 39 percent. With Cutler in the race, however, Michaud’s lead shrinks to 4 percent, with Cutler garnering 18 percent of the vote.
Similarly, a Maine People’s Resource Center poll conducted in early September finds Michaud leading LePage by six points, 40 to 34 percent, with Cutler trailing at 17 percent.
A similar pattern played out in 2010, when Cutler and Democrat Libby Mitchell divided the Democratic vote and handed LePage the narrow win. With the entry of Cutler into next year’s race as a third-party candidate, 2014 may shape up to be a repeat of 2010.