ORLAND, Maine — Appearing at the annual Orland River Day celebration Saturday, U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud said Mainers over the past two weeks have told him they’re “ready for a change” in the Blaine House.
The 2nd District Democrat announced the launch of an exploratory committee for a 2014 governor’s race on June 23 and has since registered his campaign committee with the Maine Ethics Commission.
Michaud said he’s still simply testing the waters to see whether people would support him if he throws his hat in the ring, but in practice, few politicians who launch exploratory committees choose later to opt out of a race.
“The enthusiasm has been amazing,” Michaud said Saturday in Orland, following events since Friday in Portland and Brunswick.
The congressman also said he’s set a $150,000 fundraising goal by the end of June. That’s a campaign finance reporting deadline for candidate campaigns, party committees and political action committees.
“Last time I checked, we had over 591 individuals who contributed to the campaign, a diverse group all around the whole state, which is really heart-warming,” he said. “Both Governor LePage and Eliot Cutler have been raising money for quite some time. That’s why we decided [on the $150,000 goal]; It’s a good amount, in a two-week time frame, without any fundraisers.”
According to the most recent campaign finance reports, filed in January, LePage has raised more than $215,000 for the the 2014 campaign. LePage has been raising money since 2011. The other candidates will file their first finance reports in July.
The Committee to Re-Elect Gov. Paul LePage sent out an email blast to supporters on Saturday, urging them to donate ahead of the Sunday night deadline. The email rebuked Cutler and Michaud for supporting Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, which LePage opposes.
“Eliot Cutler and Mike Michaud are rushing to this deadline,” the email stated. “They are trying to prove that Maine people are behind them. … You have the opportunity to show the people of Maine stand behind reforming welfare and living within our means.”
Of the big three potential candidates, Cutler is the only one to have formally announced his bid for governor. LePage has yet to officially decide on a campaign for a second term, but quipped last week that he would not run.
Despite the buzz around his potential run for governor, Michaud was in Orland on Saturday not to campaign, but to commemorate the launch of a fundraising campaign for Great Pond Mountain Conservation Trust.
The trust aims to raise $750,000 to fund the acquisition of three parcels of land — totaling nearly 200 acres — that would connect its two massive swaths of wildlands in Orland. The three properties include the mountain summit, the Hay Ledges area overlooking the Dead River and the area encompassing the trailhead up the mountain..
“We own the east side and the west side of Great Pond Mountain,” said David Gross, the trust’s past president and honorary chair of the “To the Summit!” capital campaign. “If this campaign is successful, we’ll have the summit of the mountain too.”
Gross said the trust has already secured a $468,000 through donations and grants. In 2005, the trust acquired the 4,300 acres that make up the Great Pond Mountain Wildlands, which are open to the public for recreational use.
The acquisition of the three properties listed above will prevent the mountain from being developed with wind turbines and cell towers, Gross said.
“This campaign will ensure that a chain of generations will be able to form memories of our mountain,” he said. “The dream to preserve this place, so special to all of us, will be fulfilled.”
Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.