It's the same story that independent candidates face across the country: a battle against a mass of special interest groups, accusations of spoiling the race, and laws tailored to the interests of the two-party duopoly. That's exactly where Maine's independent gubernatorial candidate, Eliot Cutler, currently finds himself.
“I don't take money from special interest PACs or political parties,” Cutler said in an interview for IVN.
“I want to be a governor who is un-bought, un-bossed, and free to do the very best for the people of the state of Maine. I think most people in Maine, like most people around the country, are sick and tired of partisan bickering and candidates and public officials who put political party interests above their constituents.”
Cutler said he is way ahead of where his campaign was at the same stage in 2010 -- when he first ran for governor -- with more money, better polling data, and better numbers.If he does win, Maine will make history and the following years could be a unique time for state politics.
“Maine will be the fist state in modern political history in the U.S. to have an independent governor and U.S. senator at the same time,” Cutler said, referring to independent U.S. Sen. Angus King.
“It's a huge difference when you have a senator or governor who is not bound to one ideology or one special interest group,” he added.
Cutler said if elected, the first issues he plans to tackle are property tax reform, creating universal health care by expanding Medicaid, and he will work day and night on creating jobs and reviving Maine's economy.
"My election will provide moderate Republicans and Democrats a place to go in the middle where there are good ideas, political leadership, and people who are solving problems," he remarked. "That, by itself, is going to break up the duopoly."
Cutler was narrowly defeated in the 2010 gubernatorial race by Paul LePage, losing by a margin of less than two percent (and gaining twice the number of votes as the Democratic candidate). This year, he's up against LePage again and U.S. Representative Michael Michaud, two candidates that Cutler believes don't have an innovative plan to put forward for welfare, health care, or tax reform.
“There is a vacuum of leadership and new ideas in both political parties and that's the reason Maine's economy has been lagging further and further behind the rest of New England now for 11 straight years.”Cutler says he doesn't care where the ideas come from -- Republicans, Democrats, or independents -- as long as they benefit Maine and create opportunities for the people of Maine. “We have made a series of proposals for reforms in education, health care, and taxes,” said Cutler. They are the kind of reforms that take the “best ideas from Republicans, Democrats, and independents and put them together in a package that makes sense and is politically viable. When that's done, people from every party can support it, and that is what reform is all about.”
Cutler and his supporters are already playing a role in overturning laws that unfairly benefited the two-party system.
Recently, a federal judge ruled in an equal protection case to allow supporters of Cutler to double their campaign contributions, and now Cutler says he has followed up with a series of political reform proposals he plans to pursue as governor that will further level the playing field among political parties and independents.
These proposals include reducing the influence of money in Maine politics, ballot access reform, and voting reforms aimed at electing a majority governor by instituting either ranked-choice voting or a single open primary held in mid-September “followed by a six-week general election campaign with a televised debate once a week.”
As for claims that he is nothing more than a spoiler candidate, Cutler said:
“Political parties tend to treat anyone who is not one of them as a spoiler. I'm a choice. And I was a choice in 2010, and I had twice the number of votes as Democrats, and almost beat both parties. I'm not a spoiler. A spoiler is someone who is running for office as an entitled candidate from one of the parties but who isn't really qualified to turn the state around. It's really a question of what's more important: the political party or the interests of the state of Maine.”
“The two parties don't like me and feel threatened," he added. "They are hanging on by their fingernails and so when someone like Angus King or Eliot Cutler comes along, they feel threatened and make up all kinds of stuff and try to get people to believe it, but it's not working.”