Surprise! Eliot Cutler launches campaign for governor

Eliot Cutler will officially announce his candidacy for the 2014 gubernatorial election on Tuesday, Sept. 24, at events in Bangor and Portland before conducting a “Town Hall” style meeting over the telephone and Twitter.

At this point, the event is a campaign formality. Cutler, an independent, has been campaigning ever since he was narrowly defeated by now-incumbent Republican Gov. Paul LePage in 2010. He officially registered as a candidate in 2013.

The Bangor event will take place that Cross Insurance Center, 515 Main St., at 9 a.m. An event in Portland at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, 350 Commercial St., will follow at 12:30 p.m.

At 7:30 p.m., Cutler will conduct a “Telephone Town Hall,” wherein voters can participate in a phone conference with the candidate, or send their questions via Twitter. Folks can register for the event online.

Earlier this week, Cutler released a campaign book, “A State of Opportunity,” in which he outlined his vision for Maine’s future if he is elected governor, and took jabs at the two major parties for what he said was a failure of leadership over the past decade.

The anything-but-surprising campaign announcement event has become a political trope of sorts. Candidates for national office often campaign for months under the guise of exploratory committees before “officially” kicking off their bids for office. In Maine, Democratic gubernatorial candidate and U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud held his event a month ago in Lewiston, months after it was clear that he was going to run.

LePage is the only candidate to have so far eschewed public “announcement” event. He made his election intentions clear at a private fundraiser earlier this year. He filed the necessary paperwork to run again in 2014 way back in 2011, just months after being inaugurated.

Still, LePage’s public events and communications have adopted a distinct campaign tone lately, often with the election-ready phrases such as “Words are like thunder. They make a lot of noise, but they don’t accomplish anything,” and “Actions speak louder than words.” The catchphrases are a nod to the governor’s successful track record of achieving his policy goals despite Democratic opposition, as well as a dismissal of critiques of his confrontational and sometimes inflammatory oratory style.

Recent polls show Michaud leading the pack with a slim margin over LePage, and Cutler trailing. However, some numbers indicate that Cutler has the most room for movement, with about 30 percent of Mainers either undecided about him or too unfamiliar with him to have an opinion.

According to a financial summary from the Maine Ethics Commission, Cutler is sitting on a campaign war chest of about $358,000, compared to LePage’s $282,000 and Michaud’s $306,00. Those figures represent that amount of “cash in hand” after factoring contributions and campaign expenses from the most recent filing period.

Mario Moretto

About Mario Moretto

Mario Moretto has been a Maine journalist, in print and online publications, since 2009. He joined the Bangor Daily News in 2012, first as a general assignment reporter in his native Hancock County and, now, in the State House.