We, like so many of you, are actively involved in civic affairs. We make a point of voting and, like you, usually vote for candidates from one of Maine’s two major parties.
But this election is different. These times are different. Maine has been headed in the wrong direction for way too long, and we believe that must change.
Simply electing “more of the same” is not the answer. And if we want truly effective change, we must reject the partisanship and divisiveness that for far too long has stymied progress in this state.
As never before, Maine needs a great governor. We demean no person, but rather seek to speak accurately about the emerging consensus we perceive: Maine needs a great governor with proven experience, unusual intelligence and the ability to change, but not destroy, Augusta. To change it for the better.
No Maine governor has confronted greater challenges: a deficit of $1 billion; a hole that is nearly 20 percent of the budget; a state retirement system, existing to protect state employees and teachers, underfunded by between $4 billion and $9 billion; roads and bridges essential to a rural state deteriorating every year as we underfund routine maintenance; poverty growing rapidly — for children under age 5 rising from 17 percent in 2000 to nearly 22 percent in 2008; 11 percent of Maine people earning less than $10,400; and 30 percent earning less than $20,800 in 2008. These conditions are morally, socially and economically unacceptable.
At the root of these misfortunes lies Maine’s badly eroded economy. Our weakened economy produces lower incomes for workers, higher unemployment rates, lower tax revenues, higher property taxes and a tearing of our social fabric. We’ve lost thousands of manufacturing jobs because of high energy costs, awkward regulation and a growing shortage of skilled workers.
Too often change is feared, so Augusta fails to think strategically and does little to improve Maine’s economy.
Instead, Augusta has built a massive safety net. This may be humane, but it has distracted us from the even more humane development of policies which prevent harm in the first place. A “safety railing” investment by state government is often more effective than a safety net.
Every candidate for governor hopes to improve this grim situation, but the winner will surely find more opponents after the election than before it: entrenched partisan and special interest groups, both public and private, who fight in Augusta for their members or clients, who give up nothing, even when the greater good demands it.
We believe the essence of leadership is the ability to bring about shared sacrifice for the common good. But who among the leading gubernatorial candidates, by force of experience, intellect and character, is the person who can persuade partisan and special interests in Augusta to sacrifice for the common good?
We have carefully examined the candidates and their positions. Each has strengths and weaknesses, but one candidate stands out above all. That person is Eliot Cutler. Cutler’s proposals and debate answers show mastery of the most important issues a governor will face and that those issues are why he’s running.
His experience cutting huge federal budgets in the White House as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget is essential to deal with Maine’s deficit. His environmental work for Sen. Edmund Muskie and in the private sector give him greater environmental expertise than any previous Maine governor. He has extensive international experience in economic and infrastructure development. His lifetime of public and private service to the less fortunate ensures he will have the right priorities.
Last, the contrast between Cutler and his opponents is revealing. He is not supported by the status quo or those who helped create it, and Libby Mitchell is. He is not supported by those who detest our government and propose abolition of whole parts of it, and Paul LePage is.
He is vastly experienced in changing state, local and federal government, and none of his opponents are. He is not extreme, and some of his opponents are.
Of them all, if we are to select a person with the greatest probability of being the great governor that Maine needs now, we would select Eliot Cutler.
We respectfully urge you to do so as well. Because we can all agree: As never before, Maine needs a great governor.
Jon Doyle is a lawyer who practices in Augusta. He previously served as deputy attorney general and counsel to the Legislature. Kay Rand is a public affairs consultant in Augusta and was the campaign manager and chief of staff for former Gov. Angus King. Samuel Zaitlin is president of Thermal Energy Storage of Maine and former chairman of the Maine Turnpike Authority and the Maine Board of Environmental Protection.