Paul LePage ran for a second term as governor in 2014. The often divisive Republican was widely considered one of the most vulnerable gubernatorial incumbents facing re-election this year. Sources ranging from Governing, Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball, The Washington Post and Daily Kos rated the 2014 Maine governor's race as a tossup. In June 2013, after Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud launched his bid for the office, LePage briefly indicated interest in running for Michaud's seat in the U.S. House in 2014 as a way to avoid the risk of a formidable challenge. LePage ultimately decided to seek re-election as governor.
Cutler's declining fortunes in the general election
The back-and-forth results of polls published in October led supporters of Michaud to call for Cutler's withdrawal from the gubernatorial race. Cutler, who lost to LePage by 1.7 percent in 2010, was seen as a drain on Michaud's poll figures due to their similar political leanings. The independent candidate averaged about 13 percent in October polls gathered by Ballotpedia, while LePage and Michaud each approached 40 percent. Cutler called an October 29 press conference to address these concerns, raising the hopes of Democratic supporters who asked for his withdrawal. He announced plans to remain in the race and stated, "Anyone who has supported me but who now worries that I cannot win and is thereby compelled by their fears or by their conscience to vote instead for Mr. LePage or Mr. Michaud should do so."
U.S. Sen. Angus King (I) had a change of heart on the same day as Cutler's press conference. He endorsed Cutler in August, but switched his support to U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud (D) because "the voters of Maine are not prepared to elect Eliot in 2014."
Campaign finance decision in district court
An August 22 decision by U.S. District Court judge D. Brock Hornby regarding campaign finance limits in Maine may have contributed to more money in the gubernatorial race. Hornby ruled that a group of four donors to the campaign of independent candidate Eliot Cutler could go beyond a $1,500 per person limit on general election contributions for unaffiliated candidates. Democratic and Republican candidates in Maine enjoy a higher contribution limit because they can max out the individual donation limit in the primary and general election reporting periods. Both major-party candidates did not face primary challenges this year, though the individual limit reset after the statewide primary on June 10.
Attorneys representing the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices defended the contribution limits, citing their ability to reduce corrupt practices. The state's attorneys also argued that supporters can use PACs to support their preferred candidates. Hornby dismissed these arguments, noting that the current limitation treats contributors differently based on their political leanings. The decision left open the question of whether all donors to Cutler could contribute $3,000 ahead of the general election, or if the ruling focused on the four plaintiffs. The donors who brought the original lawsuit will also pursue further action to enshrine Hornby's decision into state law.
The Maine Ethics Commission voted unanimously on August 27 to not enforce the $1,500 limit for each election, opting instead for a $3,000 per individual limit for the 2014 election cycle. The board's decision only applied to the 2014 election, and the Maine State Legislature would need to act for similar changes in future elections.
Dueling campaign finance complaints
The Maine Democratic Party filed an ethics complaints in early October against Paul LePage, claiming that the governor used state property as part of his re-election campaign. The complaint argued that a campaign spokesperson used a state-funded vehicle in order to reach election-related events. The state Republican Party countered with a complaint against Mike Michaud that accused the U.S. House member of using federal campaign money for his gubernatorial campaign. The Maine Ethics Commission unanimously rejected further investigation of both claims on October 10, 2014.
Michaud's revelationOn November 4, 2013, after establishing himself as the race's front-runner, Michaud disclosed in an op-ed column submitted to three of the state’s major news outlets that he is gay. Michaud emphasized that his sexuality was irrelevant to his ability to perform in public office. He said he came out in response to "whisper campaigns" instigated by opponents in order to cast suspicion about his personal life. The revelation put Michaud in the running to become the first openly gay man or woman to be elected governor in the nation's history, though he ultimately lost to Gov. LePage.
- Maine Biz, "LePage eyes long-term goals, says 2014 run likely," May 8, 2013
- Sabato's Crystal Ball, "2013-2014 Gubernatorial Races," March 4, 2013
- University of Virginia Center for Politics: Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball, "2013-2014 Gubernatorial Races," April 29, 2013
- The Washington Post, "The Fix's top gubernatorial races," September 27, 2013
- Daily Kos, "Daily Kos Elections gubernatorial race ratings: Initial ratings for 2013-14," October 6, 2013
- Governing Politics, "2013-2014 Governor's Races: Who's Vulnerable?," December 12, 2012
- The Morning Sentinel, "LePage: Sorry if you were offended," June 24, 2013
- The Washington Post blogs, "Rep. Mike Michaud steps into Maine governors race," June 13, 2013
- Portland Press Herald, "Cutler staying in race, insists Mainers should ‘vote their conscience’," October 29, 2014
- Bangor Daily News, "King endorses fellow independent Cutler for Maine governor," August 19, 2014
- Portland Press Herald, "Angus King switches endorsement from Cutler to Michaud," October 29, 2014
- The Bellingham Herald, "Judge: Cutler donors can increase contributions," August 22, 2014
- Bangor Daily News, "Maine Ethics Commission changes donor limit rule in governor’s race," August 27, 2014
- Portland Press Herald, "Maine ethics panel dismisses complaints in governor’s race," October 11, 2014
- Portland Press Herald, "Rep. Michaud’s op-ed column: Yes, I’m gay. Now let’s get our state back on track," November 4, 2013
- Portland Press Herald, "Maine governor candidate Mike Michaud: I’m gay ," accessed November 4, 2013