AUGUSTA, Maine — Campaign war chests of two of the top three candidates for governor in Maine have broken the $1 million mark.
The campaign for Democrat Mike Michaud, Maine’s 2nd District representative, said its candidate had collected $1.4 million as of the April 29 deadline, while independent candidate Eliot Cutler reported contributions of $1.3 million.
Meanwhile, Maine’s incumbent Republican Gov. Paul LePage had collected $842,006 for his campaign to date.
While Cutler has trailed in the most recent voter polls, his campaign said it is keeping pace on the financial side, according to its most recent report. Cutler said Tuesday the support shows Maine voters are weary of two-party gridlock.
But Cutler’s opponents note his reports show he has loaned his campaign $400,000 of the total reported.
“As I campaign all over Maine, I hear from people who are tired of partisan warfare in Augusta, who are hungry for change and who want a leader who is unbought and unbossed by special interests,” Cutler said. “People know what we have clearly isn’t working, and they don’t want to go back to what didn’t work before.”
He again emphasized his campaign is refusing financial support from political action committees and is committed to funding the race with individual donations.
As an independent, under Maine law, Cutler is allowed to collect a maximum of $1,500 from individual donors while party candidates can collect up to $3,000 per donor — $1,500 for the June primary and $1,500 for the November election.
But neither Michaud nor LePage have a primary challenger.
“The irony of this fundraising report is that the party candidates can raise twice as much as the independent,” Cutler campaign spokeswoman Crystal Canney said. “Party candidates can raise $1,500 in the primary and $1,500 in the general election. But the real kicker is the parties have cleared the way so there are no opponents for either of the party candidates in the primary. What kind of choice is that for voters?”
Michaud’s campaign noted it collected $464,235 during the recent reporting period from Jan. 1 to April 22 and pointed out it still had $813,499 on hand to operate the campaign.
LePage’s campaign collected $122,927 during the current period and had $618,493 on hand at the end of the period.
Cutler collected $389,467 and had $109,794 on hand at the end of the reporting period.
Michaud, the front-runner in most of the recent polling, also appears to be leading the chase for campaign cash.
“The level of support I’ve received from across the state is humbling,” Michaud said in a prepared statement. “Thousands of Mainers are contributing to the campaign and hundreds of others are volunteering their time. As I travel around the state, I can feel the excitement and energy for a new direction in Augusta. Voters are anxious for a leader who can bring people together to get the state back on the right track.”
Michaud’s campaign also repeated a message it hopes will push voters away from Cutler by highlighting Michaud’s neck-and-neck polling numbers with LePage. The most recent poll released by Rasmussen Reports on Tuesday showed both LePage and Michaud with 40 percent of the vote and Cutler trailing with just 14 percent.
“It’s clear there’s only one candidate in this race with the momentum, the grass-roots support and the resources to beat Gov. LePage this November,” said Matt McTighe, Michaud’s campaign manager.
David Farmer, a campaign spokesman for Michaud, also said Cutler’s campaign would be on the verge of collapse if not for the money the candidate was pouring into his own campaign. Farmer said Tuesday that without the loans Cutler has made to his campaign it would have run out of money during the reporting period. Farmer said the same dynamic was true for Cutler’s campaign during the last reporting cycle.
Meanwhile, Brent Littlefield, LePage’s campaign spokesman, said that while Michaud and Cutler both were raising money they may be spending it just as fast.
He said how much cash each campaign had on hand at the end of the reporting period is important to consider. The campaign’s burn rate, how fast it uses up its donations, can tell voters something about a candidate, Littlefield said.
“As we have always said, Gov. LePage expects to be outspent like he was in the past,” Littlefield wrote in an email message. “However, the LePage campaign remains frugal in the spending of dollars, just like the way Gov. LePage governs the state, and we have consistently proven we do more with less.”
Littlefield also said LePage was the only candidate, because of Maine’s campaign finance laws, who was prohibited from collecting campaign contributions from lobbyists during the legislative session. He suggested donations may pick up after the Legislature adjourns this week.
“In Maine, many even smaller businesses have lobbyist help due to the pervasiveness of regulations liberals in the Legislature try to place on job creators,” Littlefield said.
LePage also is looking forward to what may be one of his biggest fundraising events of the campaign cycle, Littlefield noted.
“With an event featuring Republican Governors Association Chairman Gov. Chris Christie next week, and with the end of the Legislative session, we look forward to aggressively raising money for the remainder of the race,” Littlefield wrote.
Admission to the May 7 reception will cost supporters $150 each while couples are being offered a VIP reception with LePage and Christie for $1,500.
Funds collected at that event would not appear until the next reports are due on May 30.
Correction: A previous version of this story contained incorrect figures because of a reporting error.