PORTLAND, Maine — Angered by relentless attacks from the left and right, independent candidate Eliot Cutler on Monday railed against the Republican and Democratic parties and their allies and defiantly insisted that their negatives attacks won’t derail his momentum in the governor’s race.
Cutler, a lawyer who served as former President Jimmy Carter’s top adviser for environmental and energy issues, said the major parties and their supporters have spent more than a half-million dollars on negative attacks and the figure will grow before Election Day.
Emboldened by a recent poll showing his campaign has drawn even with Democrat Libby Mitchell and gained ground against Republican Paul LePage, Cutler insisted he would maintain a positive message. And he urged Maine voters to insist on the same from the major parties.
“It is time for Maine people take a stand,” Cutler said at a news conference. “This is the time for Maine people of conscience and character to take back our political process — back from the gutter politics of fear and division, back from lies, deceit and distortion.”
Edmund S. Muskie Jr., whose late father was a prominent Democrat who served as Maine governor, U.S. senator and secretary of state, joined Cutler. He said his father would have been ashamed by the latest Democratic flier, which attacked Cutler’s environmental record. Democrats also have said Cutler’s work in China for a Washington law firm caused U.S. jobs to be shipped overseas.
“My father would be shocked by this piece, by the outright lies it contains and the character assassination it represents,” Muskie said.
Democrats accused Cutler of being two-faced.
“Eliot Cutler has been attacking Libby Mitchell since the day after the primary. It’s disingenuous for him to complain when we are simply presenting the people of Maine with the facts,” Arden Manning, Democratic campaign manager, said in a statement.
Maine Republican Party spokesman Lance Dutson said LePage has been targeted by more than $1 million in attack ads and that Cutler didn’t complain until he became a target. “He needs to act like a big boy and answer to the charges just like everyone else,” Dutson said.
Many signs pointed toward Cutler gaining traction. In addition to the poll by Critical Insights, six daily newspapers in the state have endorsed Cutler’s candidacy.
And he isn’t afraid to spend his own money. Cutler, who’s lent his campaign more than $600,000, has spent $1.5 million. That amount is only topped by Mitchell, whose campaign is publicly financed and reported $1.7 million in spending, according to campaign finance reports.
Those totals do not include money spent by non-campaign organizations to air advertisements targeting a specific candidate. Cutler said non-campaign organizations include unions attacking on Mitchell’s behalf and tobacco companies spending on behalf of Republicans.
Cutler’s message is resonating with some voters in a state where independents represent the largest voting bloc.
Karen Day, a Portland voter, likes Cutler because both the GOP and the Democratic Party hold positions that make her uncomfortable, but she didn’t want her vote to be wasted. She said the latest polling numbers have made comfortable knowing he’s a viable candidate.
“I’m happy to vote for him. Voting for him will make a difference,” she said. “Having him elected will be helpful in bringing the parties together.”