AUGUSTA, Maine — Betsy Smith, the director of a political action committee operating on behalf of independent candidate for governor Eliot Cutler, said she resigned from the PAC last month because of a difference of opinion on strategy, but she will continue to work on behalf of Cutler.
Smith said Wednesday that she resigned as the executive director and campaign manager of the Campaign for Maine PAC on July 15, but her decision does not reflect a withdrawal of support for Cutler. Smith said she will volunteer on Cutler’s finance committee through the November election.
“I still very much support Eliot,” said Smith. “He is the best candidate in the race. The PAC and I just had different goals and strategies about how we were going to do our work in support of Eliot. They had a vision of goals and strategies, and they weren’t in line with my goals and strategies.”
Smith, who was a paid, full-time staffer for the organization, would not detail the difference of opinion on strategy.
Tom Saturley, chairman of the PAC, was equally unwilling to provide details but said Wednesday afternoon that Smith’s departure was in no way the result of anything negative. He said Smith was brought on earlier this year because of her experience running Equality Maine’s successful 2012 campaign to pass a statewide referendum legalizing same-sex marriage in the state.
“Because of her experience running a successful campaign for Equality Maine, she was a great match for us in helping us set direction, set systems and set missions,” said Saturley. “As we evolved, it became clear that Betsy’s skillsets and talents were far beyond what we needed. … We don’t feel the need to have someone in that role. That’s not a negative as far as we’re concerned.”
Saturley said the PAC will continue as a volunteer organization, but Smith’s departure had nothing to do with finances.
According to its latest finance report to the Maine Ethics Commission, which covered the period ending July 15 — the day Smith resigned — the PAC had more than $71,000 in cash on hand, about $47,000 of which had been raised since May 28.
In 2010, the Campaign for Maine PAC raised and spent about $530,000 on behalf of Cutler, and it re-registered for the same purpose in February 2014.
“We were still working on fundraising,” said Smith on Wednesday. “We hadn’t gotten to spending on strategic communications yet. … I actually was very happy with how we were doing with fundraising in terms of the folks who were stepping up in support of Eliot. We needed to raise a lot more money. … It was at that time when we really had to set our sights on some higher goals.”
Saturley said the PAC’s mission is to use its funds to purchase media, including television advertisements, and that he hopes to top the spending the PAC carried out in 2010.
Cutler lost the 2010 gubernatorial contest by less than 2 percentage points to Republican Paul LePage. He was in third place in the polls until weeks before the election. This year, Cutler trails LePage and Democratic nominee Mike Michaud in both the polls and fundraising but is insistent that support will swing his way as Election Day nears.
Cutler campaign spokeswoman Crystal Canney said Cutler is grateful for Smith’s support, including her new role on the finance committee.
“We’re thrilled she’s joining our finance committee,” said Canney. “We’re glad she’s coming here.”