PORTLAND, Maine — The son of the late Maine environmental icon Ed Muskie came to Maine on Monday to reiterate his support for independent Eliot Cutler in Maine’s governor’s race.
During a news conference Monday, Ned Muskie, the son of the former U.S. senator, secretary of state and Maine governor from Rumford, said his father would have supported Cutler, too.
“Only one candidate measures up to the leadership standards my father set and that’s Eliot Cutler,” Ned Muskie told a small group of reporters gathered in the lobby of the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine.
When it came to the environment, Ned Muskie urged voters to do their own research on the candidates, including Democrat Mike Michaud and incumbent Republican Gov. Paul LePage. Michaud, Maine’s current 2nd District U.S. representative, has been endorsed by some of the state’s largest environmental organizations, including Environment Maine.
But Cutler, according to Ned Muskie and Leon Billings, who served as chief of staff for Ed Muskie, had a direct impact on federal environmental policy dating to when he worked with Ed Muskie in crafting landmark federal legislation in the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act.
Billings served as chief of staff for Ed Muskie when Cutler also worked on Muskie’s Senate staff.
Billings praised Cutler’s environmental record and his efforts to protect funding to clean up federal Superfund sites during his time in President Jimmy Carter’s administration.
“He was personally responsible for saving the president’s support for the federal Superfund legislation,” Billings said.
Billings also said Cutler was the only candidate in the governor’s race who had the leadership skills and tenacity to be a real advocate for action on global climate change.
Billings called climate change “an enormous, serious threat.” He said there was no real leadership outside of President Barack Obama and “his EPA” and the state of California — when it came to climate change on the national level.
He said Cutler has the leadership skills and the personal commitment on the issue to convince other governors to act. No other candidate in the race would be so forthright on the topic, according to Billings.
Also speaking for Cutler on Monday was Sherry Huber, a former Republican state legislator and environmental activist. Huber said Maine voters should examine Michaud’s record from his days in the state Senate and they would realize Cutler was the stronger pro-environment candidate in the race.
She said Michaud’s opposition to a bill that would have required greater public disclosure for industry on the chemicals they use in communities to his support for the Big A Dam on the Penobscot River in the early 1980s is evidence he is not as strong on the environment as his political endorsements would suggest.
Huber said the same groups that have endorsed Michaud in 2014 gave him only 55 percent voting records on the environment in the 1980s.
But Environment Maine’s political action committee was quick to react Monday to assertions made at Cutler’s campaign event. In a prepared statement, the group re-emphasized its support for Michaud.
“Mike Michaud is the candidate with the best track record to protect Maine’s environment,” Environment Maine Director Emily Figdor said in the release. “He has a stellar voting record on the environment in Congress and a strong vision to protect Maine’s natural legacy and transition our state to clean energy.”
The Michaud campaign also quickly released a statement.
“Congressman Michaud has been a champion for the environment throughout his career and is the only candidate in the race with a proven record of bringing Democrats, Republicans and independents together to work across the aisle to protect Maine’s environment, create renewable energy jobs and clean up Maine’s rivers,” wrote Lizzy Reinholt, communications director for the campaign. “That’s why he’s earned the endorsement of the Sierra Club, Environment Maine and Maine Conservation Voters.
“Eliot Cutler has failed to earn the support of the environmental community and now he is lashing out,” Reinholt wrote. “Unfortunately, attacks like these only help Gov. LePage, whose failed environmental policies have threatened Maine and will only get worse if he is re-elected.”
Cutler said LePage “made no pretense” about where he stood on environmental issues, while Michaud was “all pretense.”
He said his former boss, Ed Muskie, would not only be concerned about the condition of the environment, he would also be concerned about the state of Maine’s political climate.
“He would be, I think, deeply concerned that the political parties have followed Willie Sutton’s lead and gone for the money,” Cutler said, referencing the notorious 1930s bank robber who famously said he robbed banks because that’s where the money is.
“[Ed Muskie] would be deeply concerned that among party leaders there is greater fidelity to special interests and partisanship than there is to principles,” Cutler said. “He would be equally concerned that reinvention in the guise of evolution hides from public examination the history of political convenience.”
Cutler said he invited Ned Muskie and Billings to Monday’s event to set the record straight and point out his environmental record compared to his opponents.
“I’m not doing this today because they have some significant name recognition or political authority or power in the state of Maine. I’m not depending on others to prop me up,” Cutler said. “I’m not depending on organizations with names people recognize nor on millions of dollars of outside money to come in here and prop up my candidacy and greenwash it.”
He said he was just asking for a clean examination of his background compared to Michaud and LePage.
“One makes no pretense about his views of environmental values and the other makes exceptional pretense and it’s just that, it’s pretense,” Cutler said.