Was Independent Eliot Cutler the Maine Democratic Party's preferred candidate to take on Gov. Paul LePage in 2014?
According to a report on Seacoast online, Cutler told a group of supporters and undecided "fence-sitters" in Kennebunkport that he was asked after the 2010 election to run as a Democrat in 2014. The Seacoast online article does not include any Democratic response.
Maine Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant denied Cutler's statement in an interview with the Portland Press Herald Friday morning, saying no party leader made such a request. "His claim is 100 percent false.... I never spoke to him about anything like this. I never even considered it."
Here's the relevant section from Seacoast Online's report:
Taking questions from the audience, two people asked, in slightly different ways, what the differences were between he and the other candidates, especially Democrat Mike Michaud.
Repeatedly reminding the audience that Michaud is a “nice guy,” Cutler went on to highlight their differences.
“I have a world of experience he doesn’t have,” said Cutler. “I have managed big organizations with multi-million dollar budgets.”
Cutler went on to add that for 30 years Michaud has been a legislator known as a back-bencher, the last place people should look for leadership. Cutler said Michaud has no vision or plan or strategy.
“Mike spends too much time looking in the rear-view mirror. And Mike Michaud is beholden to special interests, and I’m not,” said Cutler, adding that in the 12 years Michaud has been in congress, he takes an average of $1,000 per day from special interests.
“I won’t take money from special interests, period,” said Cutler. “My obligation is owed to you and not anyone else.”
Cutler went on to say that after the 2010 election, the Democratic party had contacted him to ask him to run as a Democrat, assuring him they’d “clear the field” for him, but Cutler turned them down because, “that’s a party being run by organized labor.”
“I want to govern for everyone,” said Cutler. “Look it, Mike is a nice man but that’s not enough. Paul LePage isn’t and that’s why I’m running.”
Grant, the Democratic Party chair, took a swipe at Cutler in his response to the statements.
"Our view from the very beginning, from the day I took office as chairman of the party (in January 2011), is that Mike Michaud and (U.S. Rep.) Chellie Pingree were our two best, most viable options within the party, and we've been proved right by the polls we've seen so far."
Grant said party leaders never contemplated recruiting Cutler. He said he met with Cutler after becoming party chair, but also met with other political figures outside the party to introduce himself.
Cutler, of course, came tantalizingly close to winning the gubernatorial race as an Independent in 2010. Asked why he would not have asked Cutler to run as Democrat this year, Grant said, "I never considered him a viable candidate. I think his success in 2010 was a complete accident, and not only that, he's not a Democrat. He doesn't believe in enough things that the Democratic party does and he spent a good deal of time in 2010 bashing the Democratic party. That's not somebody I'm intreresting in recruiting to run for governor."