Independent candidate for governor Eliot Cutler said in an email to supporters Tuesday that he will match, dollar for dollar, all donations that come in to his campaign over the next three weeks.
"When I decided to run for governor, I knew it would mean investing my own money in this campaign and in Maine's future," Cutler said. "I’m confident that Maine’s voters will make the right choice – but they deserve a real campaign with the opportunity to hear from the candidates."
As of June 12, Cutler already had loaned his campaign $500,000 and has said he is willing to donate the resources necessary to run a successful campaign. His email to supporters this week may be a reaffirmation that he's "all in."
Cutler's fundraising plea referenced a poll commissioned this month by the Maine Sunday Telegram that indicated a high number of voters (48 percent) are still uncertain who they will vote for in November. Although Cutler trailed incumbent Gov. Paul LePage and Democrat Mike Michaud considerably in that poll (and every poll to date), the independent likely sees that uncertainty as an opportunity.
"Most of us are just now tuning in to this race," he said. "We’re in a strong position to earn voters' support, but we can’t do it without your help to get our TV ads on the air and our message out to more voters."
Cutler's campaign has not yet made any television ad buys, but a political action committee that supports Cutler, the Campaign for Maine, ran biographical ads last month.
Fundraising has been an interesting issue for Cutler. Even though he cannot raise as much cash as his opponents because he's an independent, Cutler has out-raised LePage and has nearly matched Michaud.
Maine law allows party candidates to accept $1,500 contributions from individuals for both the June primary and the general election, even if those candidates don’t face primary challengers. Neither LePage nor Michaud had a primary challenger, but each candidate will be allowed to accept as much as $3,000 from an individual. As an independent, Cutler can collect no more than $1,500 per donor.
But Cutler also has spent the most, even though he has not bought any airtime.
As of late May, his campaign spent more than $1.25 million since January 2013. That dwarfs LePage, who has spent about $261,000, and Michaud, who has spent $756,000, much of it on fundraising services.
Cutler's campaign had just $40,000 in cash as of May 27, compared to $864,000 for Michaud and $758,000 for LePage.