AUGUSTA, Maine — Former Gov. John Baldacci would rather see one of Maine’s two U.S. representatives, Democrats Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud, challenge Republican Gov. Paul LePage in 2014. But if they don’t, he probably will, according to a story posted Wednesday by Politico.
Late last year, Baldacci’s name surfaced in speculation about potential 2014 Democratic gubernatorial candidates. He told the Bangor Daily News in January that he would consider a run.
“I am interested if Mike and Chellie don’t run,” Baldacci told Politico. “I’m encouraging both of them to run … If they don’t, then I want to be ready to make sure that we put up a good fight, because I think that it’s worth fighting for.”
Earlier this month, Michaud told the Bangor Daily News that he’s considering a gubernatorial campaign, but hasn’t set a timeline for making a decision. Baldacci told Politico that he believes April to be the time when Democrats should start setting up the “apparatus for a campaign.” He also believes the Democrats’ field of candidates will be more certain by then.
Willy Ritch, a spokesman for Pingree, acknowledged Wednesday that the three-term congresswoman has been approached about seeking the governorship in 2014.
“Chellie has been encouraged by lots of people to run and she’s carefully considering it,” Ritch said Wednesday in an email to the BDN.
To date, Steve Woods, who ran for U.S. Senate as an independent in 2012, and former Maliseet tribal representative David Slagger are the only Democrats to file with the Maine Ethics Commission as 2014 gubernatorial candidates.
Democrats in Maine have made it a priority to nominate a strong candidate for governor in 2014 after the party’s top-of-ticket candidates, Libby Mitchell for governor in 2010 and Cynthia Dill for U.S. Senate in 2012, both finished third in their races with less than 20 percent of the vote.
Democrats also will look to field a stronger candidate for Maine’s 2014 U.S. Senate election. Incumbent Republican Sen. Susan Collins, whom a January poll identified as one of the nation’s most popular senators, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that, barring the catastrophic illness or injury of herself or her husband, she intends to seek a fourth term.
Baldacci, a Bangor native who served as Maine’s governor from 2003 until 2011 after stints in the Maine Legislature and as the state’s 2nd District congressional representative, also labeled likely independent candidate Eliot Cutler a potential “spoiler” who could tip the 2014 race toward LePage.
Cutler finished a close second to LePage in a five-person race in 2010. He has filed paperwork with the Maine Ethics Commission as a 2014 gubernatorial candidate, but has yet to announce formally whether he’ll run again. Cutler told a Portland television station Wednesday that he “assumes” he will be a candidate, but does not plan to make a formal announcement until the fall.
“My thinking at this point, and the analysis bears this out, is that Eliot Cutler, even with a weak Democratic candidate and a Green Party candidate, can’t marshal a majority support against this incumbent governor,” Baldacci told Politico.
LePage has filed as a candidate but has not formally announced whether he’ll seek re-election.
Baldacci also expressed frustration to Politico about LePage’s “outbursts” and “the ideologically driven negativism of the current administration.” Despite the low approval rating he received in public polls during the latter stages of his administration, Baldacci said he believes Maine voters would be open to his return as governor.
“It’s been a hard two and a half years for the state and I think that what I’ve seen is, people are more appreciative of the service that I represented them with,” Baldacci said.
The former governor’s brother, Bangor City Councilor Joe Baldacci, earlier this month said he would contemplate a run in the 2nd U.S. House District if Michaud forsakes that seat for a Blaine House run.