As a former leader of EqualityMaine, here’s why I support Eliot Cutler for governor

By Betsy Smith, Special to the BDN
Posted Nov. 18, 2013, at 1:18 p.m.

One of the things I love about Maine are the fair-minded people who live here. In our decades-long effort to win legal equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, the LGBT movement had conversations with tens of thousands of voters. I came to admire Mainers’ fierce independence and open-mindedness, regardless of political affiliation.

We now live in a state that respects same-sex couples and their families, and I couldn’t be prouder of how we won this important recognition. As executive director of EqualityMaine and in collaboration with many remarkable people, we provided a vision, one that most LGBT Mainers dared not dream, developed a long-term strategy and plan, and built a coalition of Democrats, Republicans and independents, as well as people of faith, business leaders and educators, to enable our success.

I’d argue that this same model of leadership — provide a vision, develop a strategy and plan, and build the necessary coalitions to succeed — is possibly the most important tool in a governor’s toolbox.

When I consider our choices for governor, there’s only one candidate who has utilized this leadership model over and over again in his life, with incredible success, and that’s Eliot Cutler.

Cutler’s leadership skills are exactly what we need to help rebuild Maine — to turn our economy around, put people back to work, create a fair and workable tax system and protect, unequivocally, the freedom of reproductive choice and equality for all. Cutler embraces a vision for Maine that is inclusive and collaborative. If as Mainers we’re concerned about our way of life, then I strongly encourage everyone to read Cutler’s book, “A State of Opportunity,” which simply and clearly outlines a path to economic recovery.

In his book Cutler says, “We have failed to invest in a long-term statewide strategy to stabilize Maine’s economic position, leverage Maine’s competitive advantages and position Maine people for greater opportunity and prosperity. Nothing we have done has been tied to a coherent vision and a larger plan, and the bitter harvest of that failure is the economic growth that we have not seen, the jobs and incomes that we do not have.”

He goes on to say that opportunity must be our overarching goal — opportunities like jobs and income from Maine’s natural resources and building and developing the Maine brand, while promoting year-round tourism. His plan for using a capital budget to make investment decisions that enhance competitive advantage is one way in which we can reinvigorate and stimulate Maine’s economy and secure its future for the next generation.

My wife and I have two young children and we want a secure future for them here in Maine. I love that Cutler not only thinks about the challenges facing the next generation but has put solutions to these challenges in writing. Whether you agree with his plan or not, I know he’d love to hear your feedback. He’s that kind of person.

Admittedly, when Cutler entered the race I felt a moment of conflict, a bit of hesitation. This was not because I had any doubt of the kind of leadership Cutler would bring to Augusta, but because of my respect for U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud. What I have come to resolve is that supporting Cutler is not about working against Michaud, it’s about working for the best leader for Maine, and that’s Cutler.

I’m a Democrat and my values are reflected in the Democratic Party platform. Rarely do I support a candidate who is not a Democrat. But this time around, not only are my core values of equality and choice most closely aligned with Cutler’s — a lifetime of being pro-equality and pro-choice — but his leadership strategies of building coalitions among all political affiliations are an extension of the work I’ve been doing for the last two decades and are critical for moving Maine forward.

I’m so excited about his candidacy that I am leading an independent campaign effort to elect Cutler as our next governor. This coalition of Democrats, Republicans and Independents, called Campaign for Maine, will do everything in its power to communicate Cutler’s vision and plans for bettering Maine.

We need a change of leadership in Augusta and Eliot Cutler offers the right vision and leadership for Maine. We need an environment that promotes collaboration, not division, among Democrats, Republicans and independents, to achieve our goal of a secure and promising future. I am confident that with Eliot at the helm he will do just that. Please join me if you agree.

Betsy Smith is the former executive director of EqualityMaine and now campaign manager for Campaign for Maine, an independent campaign effort to elect Eliot Cutler as Maine’s next governor.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/11/18/opinion/why-one-maine-gay-rights-leaders-supports-eliot-cutler-for-governor/ printed on December 27, 2014